Progressive muscle relaxation is a relaxation technique to reduce anxiety and stress. It involves tensing and relaxing specific muscle groups, systematically isolating each muscle group, from head to toe. So each muscle group is progressively tensed and relaxed until all of the muscles groups are addressed. This relaxation technique helps you to feel a tense muscle, and helps you to differentiate what a relaxed muscle feels like. Preliminary research has promising results that progressive muscle relaxation may help to reduce anxiety and stress (Georgiev et al., 2012).
So let’s take a look at the following video to see how to use progressive muscle relaxation to help you reduce anxiety and stress:
Try to make your environment as calm as possible, including turning off music, or anything else you think might distract you. Progressive muscle relaxation can be done sitting or lying down, whichever is most comfortable for you. You will be clenching, or tightening, selected muscle groups for approximately 10 seconds. The goal is to tense the muscle so that more blood flows into the muscle. But you want to make sure you don’t clench the muscle too hard, as this can cause muscle spasms and cramps.
Now that you are lying down or sitting, begin by tensing and holding your feet. Really scrunch those toes; hold it; hold it; ok relax. Notice the tingling sensation in your feet, and the feeling of warmth you may be experiencing.
Next, tense and hold your leg muscles. Tense them as tightly as you can, and hold it. Hold it; hold it; ok relax. Allow the weight of your legs to sag.
Next, tighten your buttocks as tightly as you can. If you are doing it correctly, you should be lifted by the muscles’ clenching. Ok go; hold it; hold it; ok relax.
Now, tighten your stomach muscles. Clench them in, and hold it; hold it; ok relax.
Moving to your hands, make fists as tightly as you can. Hold it; hold it; hold it; ok relax.
Tighten your forearms, and upper arms, and clench those muscles. Hold it; hold it; hold it; ok relax.
Now tighten your chest muscles. It might be difficult to isolate them, so it’s ok to clench your arms here too. Ok go; hold it; hold it; hold it; ok relax. Just allow your arms to fall at your sides, and let them feel heavy.
Raise your shoulders and tighten them, as if you are trying to touch your ears with your shoulders. Hold it; hold it; ok relax.
Finally, clench the muscles in your face by making the strangest, ugliest face you can. Of course you will feel silly at first, but just do it. Ok go; hold it; hold it; ok relax.
Now, scan your body from head to toe. Notice how heavy it feels, and how warm some of your muscles feel. Just notice the sensations, and allow yourself to relax. Your heart may be beating harder because of your exertions. That’s ok.
Now you know how to do progressive muscle relaxation, and you can use it anytime you need to reduce stress and anxiety. The advantage of this technique is that it is highly portable, convenient, and can be used at any time, even when you are sitting at your desk.
Acute effects of progressive muscle relaxation on state anxiety and subjective well-being in chronic Bulgarian patients with schizophrenia. Georgiev A, Probst M, De Hert M, Genova V, Tonkova A, Vancampfort D. Psychiatr Danub. 2012 Dec;24(4):367-72.