Do the Progressive Muscle Relaxation Exercise

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Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a stress and anxiety management technique. If you have panic disorder, agoraphobia or another anxiety disorder, this technique may help you calm your body and quiet your mind. With regular practice, progressive muscle relaxation gets easier to perform, and you will be able to achieve a greater depth of relaxation.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 10–15 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Make sure you are comfortable. You may be sitting in a chair or lying down. Your eyes may be open or closed, but most people find closing their eyes helps maintain focus during the exercise. Loosen any restrictive clothing and make sure your surroundings are quiet.
  2. Begin by doing some deep breathing. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Repeat this several times.
  3. Start by tensing the muscles in your feet. Bend your feet upward from the ankle toward your face. Flex your feet upward as high as you can, but not so much that it causes pain or cramping. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds. Quickly release the tension in your feet. Notice the feelings and sensations you experience when your feet are relaxed. Stay relaxed for about 20 to 30 seconds before moving on to the next muscle group.
  4. Tense the muscles in your buttocks and thighs. Notice how the tension feels. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds and quickly release the tension. Stay relaxed for 20 to 30 seconds.
  1. Tighten your stomach muscles. Focus on the tension for 5 to 10 seconds. Release the tension and relax for a count of 20 to 30. Notice the differences between how your stomach felt while tensed and relaxed.
  2. Make a tight fist with each hand while simultaneously flexing your hands upward at the wrist. Focus on the sensations you feel while these muscles are tensed for a count of 5 to 10 seconds. Quickly release the tension and focus on the relaxed muscles in your hands and arms for 20 to 30 seconds.
  1. Bend your elbows and tense your biceps as hard as you can. Hold the tension for a count of 5 to 10 and quickly release. Stay relaxed for 20 to 30 seconds, focusing on how these relaxed muscles feel.
  2. Move to the upper back. Tighten your upper back muscles by pulling your shoulders back as tight as you can. Hold for a count of 5 to 10. Quickly release the tension and relax for 20 to 30 seconds. Focus on how your upper back feels now compared to when tensed.
  3. Pull your shoulders upward toward your ears. Pull them up as tight as possible and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Feel the tension in your shoulders and neck. Quickly release the tension and stay relaxed for 20 to 30 seconds.
  4. Wrinkle your forehead upward as tight as you can. Hold for a count of 5 to 10 and quickly release the tension. Stay relaxed for 20 to 30 seconds.
  5. Squeeze your eyes closed for a count of 5 to 10. Focus on how the tension feels. Release the tension and focus on how relaxation feels for a count of 20 to 30.
  6. Open your mouth as wide as you can. Feel the tension in your jaw. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds and release. Relax your jaw — your lips should be slightly parted. Notice the contrast between tension and relaxation.
  1. Continue deep breathing for a few minutes. Focus on how your relaxed muscles feel.

Tips:

  1. By practicing this exercise regularly, you will be able to recognize tightness in various muscle groups and relax them on cue.
  2. You can add muscle groups to the exercise, or you can just focus on your individual areas of tension.
  3. After tightening muscle groups, make sure to release the tension quickly, not gradually.
  4. Throughout the exercise, stay focused on how the muscle groups feel when they are tensed and relaxed.

    Source:

    Davis, M., Eshelman, E., and McKay, M. "The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook, 5th Addition" 2000 New Harbinger Publications, Inc.: Oakland, CA.

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