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Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Posted Oct 14 2010 6:30am
Progressive Muscle Relaxation helps to reduce Anxiety by stimulating the
Parasympathetic Nervous System (Rest and Repose Response). When we are
Anxious our thoughts of danger stimulate the Sympathetic Nervous System
(Fight or Flight Response). By intentionally tensing and then relaxing
the muscles of the body while focusing on the breath we can reduce the
physical symptoms of Anxiety, which helps to reduce the mental or
emotional symptoms.

This is an abbreviated version of a progressive muscle relation
There are two parts to progressive muscle relaxation:

  • Step
    One: Create Tension. The process of applying tension to a muscle is
    essentially the same regardless of which muscle group you are using.
    First, focus your mind on the muscle group; for example, your right
    hand. Then inhale and simply squeeze the muscles as hard as you can for
    about 8 seconds; in the example, this would involve making a tight fist
    with your hand.

  • Step Two: Releasing the Tension.
    After the 8 seconds, just quickly and suddenly let go. Let all the
    tightness and pain flow out of the muscles as you simultaneously exhale.
    In the example, this would be imagining tightness and pain flowing out
    of your hand through your fingertips as you exhale. Feel the muscles
    relax and become loose and limp, tension flowing away like water out of a
    faucet. Focus on and notice the difference between tension and

The summary muscle groups. Instead of working
with just one specific part of your body at a time, focus on the
complete group. In Group 1, for example, focus on both legs and feet all
at once. The four summary muscle groups are as follows
  • Lower limbs
  • Abdomen and Chest
  • Arms, Shoulders, and Neck
  • Face

addition, focus on your breathing during both tension and relaxation.
Inhale slowly as you apply and hold the tension. Then, when you let the
tension go and exhale, say a cue word to yourself (below). This will
help you to associate the cue word with a state of relaxation, so that
eventually the cue word alone will produce a relaxed state. Suggested
cue words
  • Relax
  • Let it go
  • It’s OK
  • Stay calm
  • All things are passing

Katie Goode, M.A., MFC 45129
Eating Disorder and Anxiety Specialist
26060 Acero, Mission Viejo, CA 92691
(949) 395-7161

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