The Coping Kete

No. 55: Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This week to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

I will practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation for two minutes every day so that I am well-versed in its use when I am feeling stressed, pressed or distressed and really need it.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation allows me relax and distract myself from my thoughts by tensing and releasing my muscles and focusing on the sensation of release.

I will find a comfortable spot, either sitting or lying down, and take a moment to breathe. In the morning before getting up or at night before going to sleep is the perfect time to practice, because I’m already lying down.

As I breathe slowly, I will tense the muscles in each area of my body for 10 slow seconds, starting at my toes. Then I will release the tension in those muscles, again for 10 seconds. Then I will move on to the next group of muscles.  I will focus my attention on the sensations I experience in my body when I tense each muscle and especially on the sensations I experience when I release each muscle.

Throughout the exercise I will keep my breathing slow and regular as in the standard breathing exercise, as I work my way through my body, tensing and releasing one muscle-group at a time. If I am not yet familiar with the standard breathing exercise, I will spend a week with that before moving onto Progressive Muscle Relaxation.

If my mind wanders, I will bring it slowly back to the sensations in my body as I tense and relax each set of muscles.

Once I have become well-practiced at this exercise in everyday moments, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete for use at any time, anywhere to distract from and self-soothe stressful and distressing feelings.

This exercise is particularly good for racing thoughts and insomnia.

StepByStep Guide to Progressive Muscle Relaxation

  1. Toes. With legs relaxed, dig your toes into the floor; relax. Bend the toes up as far as possible; relax.
  2. Calves and feet. Point the toes (without raising the legs); relax. Point the feet up as far as possible (beware of cramps – if you get them or feel them coming on, shake them loose); relax.
  3. Thighs. Extend legs and raise them off the floor but don’t tense the stomach; relax. Dig your feet (heels) into the floor or foot rest; relax.
  4. Butt. Tense the butt tightly and raise pelvis slightly off chair; relax. Dig buttocks into chair; relax.
  5. Stomach. Pull in the stomach as far as possible; relax completely. Push the stomach out as far as possible; relax.
  6. Back. With shoulders resting on the back of the chair, push your body forward so that your back is arched; relax. Be very careful with this one.
  7. Shoulders. Pull them back (careful with this one); relax them. Push the shoulders forward (hunch); relax.
  8. Arms. The biceps are tensed (make a muscle – but shake your hands to make sure not tensing them into a fist); relaxed (drop your arm to the chair). The triceps are tensed (try to bend your arms the wrong way); relaxed (drop them).
  9. Hands. The fists are tensed; relaxed. The fingers are extended; relaxed.
  10. Neck. With the shoulders straight and relaxed, the head is turned slowly to the right, as far as you can; relax. Turn to the left; relax. Dig your chin into your chest; relax.
  11. Mouth. The mouth is opened as far as possible; relaxed. The lips are brought together or pursed as tightly as possible; relaxed.
  12. Tongue (roof and floor). Dig your tongue into the roof of your mouth; relax. Dig it into the bottom of your mouth; relax.
  13. Eyes. Open them as wide as possible (furrow your brow); relax. Close your eyes tightly (squint); relax. Make sure you completely relax the eyes, forehead, and nose after each of the tensings.

Feel free to adapt this to suit your situation and preferences as you need or wish to.

_ _ _

Acknowledgement: Progressive Muscle Relaxation was originally developed by Edmund Jacobson in the 1930’s and has become a widely used relaxation method. 

Leave a Reply

Post Navigation