Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Stress Relief

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Filed Under: General Health
Last Reviewed 04/11/2014

Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Stress Relief

Progressive muscle relaxation can be a very effective stress relief technique once you’ve mastered it. It involves tensing individual muscle groups and then relaxing them to create awareness of tension and relaxation. It progresses through all the major muscle groups, from head to toe, and eventually leads to total muscle relaxation.

Regular practice of progressive muscle relaxation can help you get more in tune with your mind and body so that you can immediately begin to counteract the first signs of stress. Relax your body, and you can relax your mind! In combination with other stress relief techniques such as deep breathing, meditation and mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation can help life the weight of the world off your shoulders!

Preparing for Progressive Muscle Relaxation

  • Loosen your clothing, take off your shoes, and get comfortable.

  • If you can lie down and feel comfortable doing that go ahead and lie down. If you must sit up, find a comfortable position to sit in.

  • Take a few minutes to relax, breathing in and out in slow, deep breaths.

  • It takes discipline but give yourself the latitude to eliminate all other thoughts and concerns for this time you have allotted to relax yourself.

  • Once you are fully concentrated on the feelings of your body and the present, you are ready to begin!

How To Perform Progressive Muscle Relaxation

  • When you’re ready to start, shift your attention to your right foot. Think about how your foot feels, allow your mind to wander through the feelings in your foot and focus on those feelings.
  • Slowly tense the muscles in your right foot, squeezing as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of 10.
  • Relax your right foot. Focus on the tension flowing away, imagine all that stress evaporating! Concentrate on how relaxed your foot feels as it becomes limp and loose.
  • Stay in this relaxed state for a moment, breathing deeply and slowly. Enjoy the feeling!
  • When you’re ready, shift your attention to your left foot. Follow the same sequence of muscle tension and release.
  • Move slowly up through your body, contracting and relaxing the muscle groups as you go.
  • If someone muscles stubbornly remain tense, tighten and relax that specific muscle three or four times.
  • It may take some practice at first, but try not to tense muscles other than those intended.

Tips on the Various Muscle Groups

  • Forehead—Push your eyebrows to your hairline to work the forehead. Relax. Feel the warmth and calmness in your forehead.
  • Eyes—Close your eyes as tightly as you can for five seconds. Relax. Feel the warmth and calmness around your eye sockets.
  • Nose—Wiggle it back and forth, up and down. Relax. Feel the warmth and calmness in your nose.
  • Lips, cheeks, and jaw—Draw the centers of your mouth back and grimace for five seconds. Push your lips into a pout. Relax. Feel the warmth and calmness in your face.
  • Hands—Extend your arms in front of you. Clench your fists tightly for five seconds. Relax. Feel the warmth and calmness in your hands. 
  • Forearms—Extend your arms out against an invisible wall and push forward with your hands for five seconds. Relax. Feel the warmth and calmness in your forearms.
  • Upper arms—Bend your elbows. Tense your biceps for five seconds. Relax. Feel the tension leave your upper arms.
  • Shoulders—Shrug your shoulders up to your ears for five seconds. Circle your shoulders down into a relaxed position. Relax. Feel the warmth and calmness in your shoulders.
  • Back—Arch your back off the floor for five seconds. Relax. Feel the warmth and calmness in your back.
  • Stomach—Tighten your stomach muscles for five seconds. Relax. Feel the warmth and calmness in your stomach.
  • Hips and buttocks—Tighten your hip and buttock muscles for five seconds. Relax. Feel the warmth and calmness in your hips and buttocks.
  • Thighs—Tighten your thigh muscles by pressing your legs together as tightly as you can for five seconds. Relax. Feel the warmth and calmness in your thighs.

NOTE: Before practicing progressive muscle relaxation, consult with your doctor if you have a history of muscle spasms, back problems, or other serious injuries that may be aggravated by tensing muscles.

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