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Stress Management for Salespeople

Frank Taylor’s automobile dealership has a number of high-achieving salespeople who could be described as extreme Type A personalities. Unfortunately, several of them are experiencing stress-related physical problems such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and migraine headaches. You have been hired to develop a stress reduction program incorporating both relaxation techniques and exercises that can be utilized by individuals and in group sessions several days a week at work. Describe specifics of a program that incorporates techniques of proven efficacy in dealing with extreme Type A personality behaviors.

Stress Reduction Program

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Relaxation techniques are classified according to their involvement of either physical activity or mental/mindfulness activity. According to this classification, relaxation techniques are placed into two main categories; ergotropic and trophotropic (Fischer, 1971). Ergotropic methods consist of exercise oriented activities of the body and movement meditation while trophotropic methods involve more of the mind consciousness and passive meditation. (Kulmatycki, 2006). A combination of these two techniques may often be used to handle largely all psychosomatic problems of type a personality as it has been proven to be effective in improving both the mental and physical state of relaxation. In 1929, Edmund Jacobson elaborated the potential of relaxation in alleviating the effects psychosomatic disorders through his work on “Progressive Relaxation” (Kulmatycki, 2006).

Progressive Muscle Relaxation program

Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a stress reduction program involving both deep relaxation techniques and exercises through a two-step process. The first step involves the systematic tensing up of specific muscle groups in the body, such as the limbs, abdominal neck and shoulder muscles. The next step is the releasing of the tension and the subsequent observation of the achievement when the muscles relax. This program aids in the overall lowering of tension and stress levels and helps the individual to relax. Progressive Muscle Relaxation internally shifts blood flow between the various parts of the body like the hands, legs, abdomen and the head. It is therefore proven to be effective especially in persons experiencing stress-related physical problems such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and migraine headaches (Yoo et al. 2005).

Getting ready

This relaxation technique requires a quiet space and can be performed by individuals or in groups for an avearge of 20 minutes. An individual should avoid distracting noises or may be put on some background music; they should turn off their phones and devote this self-time psychologically to the program. The relaxation should be exercised while seated or when lying down as long as the spine is straight and/or supported well by the back of the chair. It should be performed preferably with loose clothes and without any foot wear.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation begins by the subject taking a couple of deep breaths while taking note of their emotional state, thoughts and feelings running through their body without any sound judgement or anticipation (Borkovec & Costello 1993).

Distinct Muscle groups

Progressive Muscle Relaxation exercises nearly all the major muscle groups in the body. For a consistent approach and easier remembrance, the exercise begins by relaxing the feet muscles and systematically moves upwards towards the forehead. Alternatively it may be done in the reverse order (from the head down towards the feet).

Relaxing Muscle Groups

Leg Muscles

The exercise begins by extending and tensing the right foot through curling and holding the toes downwards for 30 seconds. The toes are then relaxed and the tension is released. The toes are curled and pulled upwards to tense and hold the calf muscles for a while. The calf muscles are subsequently relaxed and the tension is released. The leg muscles relaxation is finalised by tensing and squeezing the entire leg and thigh muscles for 30 seconds while allowing the other leg to remain relaxed. The tension sensations are observed and compared to the relaxed muscles in the other leg and the rest of the body. A deep breath is then taken and while exhaling, all the tension is gradually released until the tensed muscles have fully relaxed. This is better achieved by imagined imagery such as a rigid fire hose becoming slowly flexible as the water drains out. A moment is the spent appreciating the sensations in the relaxed muscles.

This exercise is repeated with the left foot and the entire left lower leg.

Buttock Muscles

The right buttock and thigh muscles are tightly squeezed and tensed for 30 seconds while allowing the left side to remain relaxed. The tension sensations are appreciated and compared to the relaxed muscles in the other side and the rest of the body. A deep breath is then taken and while exhaling, all the tension is gradually released until the tensed buttock muscles have completely relaxed. This is better achieved by imagined imagery such as a rigid fire hose becoming slowly flexible as the water drains out. A few moments are lastly spent noticing and appreciating how the muscles feel when relaxed.

The relaxation is repeated with the left buttock and left hamstring muscle.

Abdominal and Chest muscles

The abdominal muscles are sucked in while simultaneously tightening the chest muscles by taking a deep breath and pushing the back against the chair or floor. The tension sensations are appreciated and compared to the relaxed muscles in the rest of the body. A deep breath is then taken and while exhaling, all the tension is gradually released until the tensed abdominal and chest muscles have completely relaxed. A few moments are lastly spent noticing and appreciating how the muscles feel when relaxed.

Arm Muscles

The hand muscles are relaxed by clenching the right hand fist hard thereby tensing the right forearm muscles and holding for 30 seconds before slowly relaxing. The entire arm is subsequently tensed by tightening of the biceps and gently drawing the forearm towards the shoulder. The tension sensations are appreciated and compared to the relaxed muscles in the left arm. A deep breath is then taken and while exhaling, all the tension is gradually released until the tensed arm muscles have completely relaxed. A few moments are lastly spent noticing and appreciating how the muscles feel when relaxed.

The relaxation is repeated with the left hand and the entire arm muscles.

Neck and shoulder Muscles

The neck and shoulder muscles are relaxed by raising the right shoulder towards the ear, tensing the muscles and holding up for about 30 seconds.  The tension sensation is noted and compared to the relaxed muscles in the left shoulders. A deep breath is then taken and while exhaling, all the tension is gradually released until the tensed shoulder muscles have completely relaxed. This is better achieved by imagined imagery such as melting ice under the sun or butter melting.  A few moments are lastly spent noticing and appreciating how the muscles feel when relaxed.

The relaxation is repeated with the left shoulder and the entire neck muscles.

Head Muscles

The forehead is tensed by raising and stretching the eyebrows upwards while letting the whole head fall forward and holding for 30 seconds before slowly relaxing. The mouth is then opened wide by stretching and tensing the jaw muscles. The eye muscles are tensed by shutting the eyelids tightly and holding for 30 seconds. The tension sensations are appreciated and compared to the relaxed muscles in the rest of the body. A deep breath is then taken and while exhaling, all the tension is gradually released until the tensed head muscles have completely relaxed. A few moments are lastly spent noticing and appreciating how the muscles feel when relaxed.

Finishing the exercise

A few slow and deep breaths are taken to allow for complete body sensations awareness. Relaxation is repeated for any muscle group that remains tense. A few moments are then allowable for a physical and surroundings reorientation before ending the relaxation exercise (Yung, French & Leung,  2001).

Conclusion

Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a proven technique that effectively relaxes muscles through a two-step process. The first is the systematic tensing of particular muscle groups in your body such as the legs and abdominal muscles followed by the releasing of the tension and appreciation of how the muscles feel when relaxed Studies show the observance of positive responses after 12 minutes of continuous Progressive Muscle Relaxation. These responses include a decrease of the heart rate, blood pressure and the lactic acid amounts within muscles as a result of sustained relaxation of large muscle groups. Regularly performing the Progressive Muscle Relaxation exercise has been proven to decrease the stress and anxiety levels thus allowing individuals with type a personality to cope better with aggressive behavior and psychosomatic conditions (Haaga et al. 1994).

 

References

Borkovec, T. D. & Costello, E. (1993). Efficacy of applied relaxation and cognitive-behavioral therapy in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 61(4): 611-619, ISSN: 0022-006X

Fischer, R. (1971). A Cartography of the Ecstatic and Meditative States. Science. 174 (November 26), 897-903, ISSN 0036-8075

HAAGA, D., DAVISON, G., WILLIAMS, M., DOLEZAL, S., HALEBLIAN, J., ROSENBAUM, J., . . . DEQUATTRO, V. (1994). Mode-specific impact of relaxation training for hypertensive men with type a behavior pattern. Behavior Therapy. doi:10.1016/S0005-7894(05)80284-9

Kulmatycki, L. & Supiński, J. (2006). Influence of the Jacobson relaxation training for wellbeing and for anxiety level among adolescents, Polish Journal of Environmental Studies. vol. 15/5B, pp. 198-201, ISSN 1230-1485

Yoo, H. J., Ahn, S. H., Kim, S. B., Kim, W. K., & Han, O. S. (2005). Efficacy of progressive muscle relaxation training and guided imagery in reducing chemotherapy side effects in patients with breast cancer and in improving their quality of life. Supportive Care in Cancer. doi:10.1007/s00520-005-0806-7

Yung, P., French, P., & Leung, B. (2001). Relaxation training as complementary therapy for mild hypertension control and the implications of evidence-based medicine. Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery. doi:10.1054/ctnm.2000.0523

 

 

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