Muscular contraction is one link in the chain of tension, stress and insomnia. Mental imagery is another link. In order to break the vicious cycle it is really necessary to remove only one link.
However, it has been my experience that most people progress faster if an attack is made simultaneously on both of these links in the chain of stress and insomnia. When you are practicing passive relaxation, be willing to give up the desire to be doing something.
Trying to relax when you are in a hurry, or when you have a sneaking suspicion that you ought to be up and doing, presents two conflicting images, both of which your muscles try to obey.
For this reason I always advise readers, especially when they first begin learning relaxation, to decide beforehand that they intend to spend a certain amount of time each day, if possible at the same time each day, practicing relaxation doing nothing else.
Make an appointment with yourself. And make up your mind in advance that regardless of the amount of progress you seem to be making, you will spend the entire time doing nothing but practicing relaxation.
Agree with yourself in advance that you are going to invest this time in relaxation. Realize that it in not time lost, but probably one of the best uses you could be making of that particular time.
Is this how you handle stress and insomnia?
You will then approach your relaxation period with not feeling that you ought to be doing something else. I once knew a man who could relax perfectly when getting a haircut and shave in the barber's shop, who found it impossible to relax at home in an easy chair or in his bed at night.
He even purchased a barbers chair and had it installed in his home, but this didn't solve his problem. He could still relax only in the barber's shop. When he told me this I suggested that it was not the place, but his own attitude that enabled him to relax.
This man was a typical high-powered executive who felt he should forever be up and doing. His conscience bothered him when he tried to relax at home or at the office. He felt unconsciously that he was wasting good time that he could be putting to more profitable use. This caused him to suffer from many nights of stress and insomnia. There was always the possibility that he could be doing something else instead.
When he went to the barber's shop, this possibility of doing something else was entirely removed. A person cannot dictate letters, work on reports and make long distance telephone calls while getting a shave.
When he entered the barber's shop he gave up even the possibility of doing anything else. He realized that he was going to spend a certain amount of time during which he could do nothing but get a shave and a haircut. This created the ideal mental ser-up for relaxation.
When he realized this, he was able to relax at home simply by telling himself that a period of relaxation was every bit as important to him as a haircut, and that he was going to spend half and hour in his easy chair, of bed, during which time he would absolutely forbid himself to do anything else, regardless of the temptation to get up.
As soon as he made it impossible for himself to do anything else, he was able to relax and no longer suffers from stress and insomnia.
Other related pages at Relax and Sleep