Have you ever heard of progressive muscle relaxation? If you’re feeling tense or anxious, this may be worth trying. It’s a helpful technique used to help you relax.
I first learned about it many years ago. As someone who has struggled with anxiety my entire life, learning about this technique in university, and then more throughout my career, has been so beneficial. Although it can be challenging in the beginning for relaxation exercises to work, this relaxation technique was one of the ones most effective at relaxing my body and then refocusing and calming my anxious mind.
DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this blog is written from personal and lived experience. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace professional mental health services, medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health or mental health, you should always consult with a health-care professional.
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What is progressive muscle relaxation?
Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique used to relax muscle tension in your body that is often caused by stress or anxiety. Dr. Edmund Jacobson, an American physician, known as the “originator of relaxation techniques,” developed this technique in the 1920s. He believed that mental calmness results from physical relaxation.
How does progressive muscle relaxation work?
The technique involves two steps:
- First, you intentionally tense (or tighten) specific muscle groups in your body
- Next, you release the tension and notice how your muscles feel when you relax them
This process seems simple enough, but you’d be surprised to find that tensing and releasing muscle groups throughout your body can create a deep state of relaxation.
This technique also helps us better understand our body and where it stores tension. The goal is that eventually, and after some practice, we will notice any tension within our body and be able to eliminate it.
When practicing this, it is recommended that you tense and relax specific body parts one at a time, and in a particular order. Beginning at the lower end of your body, like your feet, and moving up to your face is common.
As a beginner, it’s helpful to be guided through this process. I’ve included some video exercises below for you to follow along.
What are the benefits of progressive muscle relaxation?
There are many benefits to practicing this relaxation technique. Some include:
- reducing anxiety
- reducing stress
- improving sleep
- lowering blood pressure
- reducing symptoms of certain types of chronic pain
READ MORE: What is Jacobson’s Relaxation Technique? // healthline.com | Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Stress and Insomnia // webmd.com
Here are some tips to keep in mind when practicing it.
In The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook*, Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D., recommends following some guidelines to help make the most of your practice. These include:
- Practicing for at least 20 minutes a day
- Avoiding distractions by finding a quiet place to practice and turning off your phone
- Practicing on an empty stomach since digesting food can interrupt your relaxation
- Wearing loose clothing and getting into a comfortable position. You can be seated or lying down, and your body and head should be supported.
- Practicing at a regular time each day. This will help you stay consistent and reap the most benefits
- Letting go and going with the flow. Don’t force yourself to relax, or judge how well you are doing. Just let whatever happens, happen.
6 Progressive Muscle Relaxation videos to help guide you:
If you are new to this technique, it can be helpful to be guided along the process. These videos will lead you through the relaxation exercise. Use these anytime you’re feeling tension or anxiety throughout your body. I’ve put together 6 here, but there are countless others available online. Feel free to explore and finds ones that suit your needs best!
#1. Progressive Relaxation // Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital
#2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation // Relax For A While
#3. How to do Progressive Muscle Relaxation // Therapist Aid
#4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation Training // Mark Connelly
#5. Progressive Muscle Relaxation // Janine Halloran
#6. Progressive Muscle Relaxation For Management of Anxiety and Stress // Relax For A While
The next time you are feeling anxious and tense throughout your body, give this relaxation technique a try. You may be surprised to find that tensing and relaxing your muscles can indeed make you feel calmer. And as someone with anxiety, I have found this technique to be super beneficial.
Using the tips mentioned above, and following along with the videos I’ve included to help guide you, is a perfect place for a beginner to start. It’s about time you show yourself some love and allow yourself to relax. Wishing you all the best on your wellness journey, my resilient friend! <3