Progressive Relaxation

Progressive relaxation is a technique for coping with stress. Edmond Jacobson, M.D. developed this technique in his book, Progressive Relaxation which continues to be the best reference on this technique. This exercise is a simplification of his technique.

In response to anxiety, the human body tenses muscles. Therefore, people learn to associate their degree of muscle tension with their degree of distress. Progressive relaxation works by relaxing the muscles. When your muscles are relaxed your body will interpret this to mean that you are in a state of lower stress. When your body is more relaxed, you will feel less stressed.

In a comfortable position, begin by focusing on breathing deeply and slowly. Then begin by clenching a muscle for a few seconds and then releasing. The following is a suggestion list to get you started. There are many muscles in which you can hold tension. Feel free to expand on this list to as many muscle groups as you wish. Simply choose an action, intentionally tense the muscle(s) for a few seconds and then release.

  • Clench each fist
  • Bend your elbows and tense your biceps
  • Wrinkle your forehead
  • Frown
  • Squint
  • Clench your jaw
  • Make and O with your mouth
  • Press your head back and then roll it to the left and right
  • Shrug your shoulders
  • Roll your shoulders
  • Hold your breath
  • Tighten your stomach
  • Arch your back
  • Tighten your buttocks
  • Tighten your thighs
  • Tighten your calves
  • Push your heels away and your toes toward your head
  • Curl your toes