Stress Management: Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation is an incredible skill to help manage stress, anxiety, panic, and any unpleasant feeling. It’s also great if you just want to relax! It’s a great way to ground your mind AND your body and can be done anywhere.

How It Works

Stress Management
Photo by Monstera from Pexels

You can either find a guided progressive muscle relaxation exercise to listen to or do it on your own (once you know the muscle groups). Find a comfortable seat or lay down (closing your eyes is optional). Start from your feet and work your way up your body.

  1. Inhale and tense the first muscle group for 5 seconds. Squeeze tightly, but not to the point of cramping.
  2. Exhale and relax the muscle group completely.
  3. Rest for 15 seconds and notice how the muscle group feels differently when tense vs relaxed.
  4. Once you have finished all the muscle groups, squeeze all muscle groups to the best of your ability together and hold for 10 seconds. 
  5. Count backward from 5 to bring you back to the present moment.

Below is a guide on what to do as you focus on different muscle groups.

Muscle Group What to Do
Feet Curl your toes towards your heel
Lower Legs Point toes towards your face; Then point toes away
Thighs Clench them hard
Hips and Glutes Press your buttocks together tightly
Stomach Suck it into a tight knot
Back Arch your back up
Chest Inhale and hold for 5 seconds
Front of Neck Touch chin to chest
Back of Neck Raise your chin up
Shoulders Shrug them
Biceps/Upper Arms Clench hands into a fist, bend arms at elbows and flex biceps
Wrists/Forearms Extend arms, bend hands back at the wrist
Hands Clench them into a fist
Mouth Press lips together tightly
Cheeks/Jaw Smile as widely as you can
Eyes/Nose Close eyes as tightly as possible
Forehead Raise eyebrows as high as possible
About the author, Mackenzie Dajani: 

Mackenzie is a Resident in Counseling with an M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Marymount University and a B.A. in Psychology, providing counseling services at our Alexandria location. She also holds a Religious Studies degree from The College of William & Mary.

Mackenzie has completed internships working with diverse individuals, couples, and families. She has completed the majority of her residency in an inpatient behavioral health hospital. She has clinical experience and a particular interest in working with adults, couples, anxiety, depression, relationship distress, grief, and motivation. Mackenzie offers Christian counseling, as well.

Mackenzie provides a person-centered and holistic approach, utilizing strength-based, cognitive-behavioral, and Gestalt interventions. As a certified yoga instructor, Mackenzie values mindfulness and the mind-body connection.

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