Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive Muscle Relaxation teaches you how to relax your muscles through a two-
step process. First, you systematically tense particular muscle groups in your body, such
as your neck and shoulders. Next, you release the tension and notice how your muscles
feel when you relax them. This exercise will help you to lower your overall tension and
stress levels, and help you relax when you are feeling anxious. It can also help reduce
physical problems such as stomachaches and headaches, as well as improve your
People with anxiety difficulties are often so tense throughout the day that they don’t
even recognize what being relaxed feels like. Through practice you can learn to
distinguish between the feelings of a tensed muscle and a completely relaxed muscle.
Then, you can begin to “cue” this relaxed state at the first sign of the muscle tension that
accompanies your feelings of anxiety. By tensing and releasing, you learn not only what
relaxation feels like, but also to recognize when you are starting to get tense during the
Set aside about 15 minutes to complete this exercise.
Find a place where you can complete this exercise without being
For the first week or two, practise this exercise twice a day until you get the hang
of it. The better you become at it, the quicker the relaxation response will “kick in”
when you really need it!
You do not need to be feeling anxious when you practise this exercise. In fact, it
is better to first practice it when you are calm. That way, it will be easier to do
when feeling anxious.
Getting ready
Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit, then close your eyes and let your body go loose. A
reclining armchair is ideal. You can lie down, but this will increase your chances of
falling asleep. Although relaxing before bed can improve your sleep, the goal of this
exercise is to learn to relax while awake. Wear loose, comfortable clothing, and don’t
forget to remove your shoes. Take about five slow, deep breaths before you begin.
© Anxiety Canada
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