One of the best relaxation techniques for anxiety was created by Edmund Jacobson in 1929 and is often called Jacobson’s Progressive Muscle Relaxation. This method involves tensing and relaxing several different muscle groups of the body. Each muscle group is tensed (without straining) for about 3 – 5 seconds, followed by letting go of the tension and relaxing the muscles for about 5 – 10 seconds. This allows you to notice the difference between a muscle that is tight and tense and a relaxed muscle.
The technique is divided into 4 areas of the body: the head, the midsection, the arms and the legs. You can follow the relaxation from the head down to the toes or from the toes up to the head, depending on what you prefer.
You can record the following or have someone read it slowly to you.
To begin, sit or lie in a comfortable position in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Take in 2 or 3 deep abdominal breaths, exhaling slowly and imagining tension leaving your body on each exhale.
- Raise your eyebrows high, and hold the tightness (3-5 seconds)…. then let them go (relax, 5-10 seconds). Use the same time intervals for all other muscle groups.
- Squeeze your eyes closed tightly…..hold….and then relax them. Leave them gently closed for the remainder of the session. Imagine sensations of deep relaxation spreading all around the area of your eyes.
- Make a wide smile with your mouth. Hold it….then let it go.
- Clench your jaw…..feel the tightness….then release it and notice the difference.
- Tighten your whole face….hold….. then relax it.
- Slowly and gently bend your neck and head back, only as far as is comfortable for you. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Bring it back to its normal position.
- Take your right ear to your right shoulder. Hold….bring it back to centre. Then take your left ear to your left shoulder and hold….then bring it back to center.
- Gently bring your head forward toward your chest, holding it there, then bring it back to its neutral position.
- Notice your whole head, face, jaw and neck area feeling relaxed and at ease.
- Raise your shoulders up toward your ears. Hold….then let them go. Feel the sensation of relaxation in your shoulders.
- Pull your shoulder blades together so they are almost touching. Hold this tension…. then let it go and relax.
- Take a deep breath and hold it in your chest….hold….. then release it slowly as you breathe out. Imagine any excess tension in your chest flowing away with the exhalation.
- Take another deep breath & tense your stomach muscles….hold… then let go as you breathe out.
- Arch the small of your back….hold…. then relax. Feel all the tension dissolve away.
- Make your hands into tight fists….hold….. then let them go. Relax.
- Extend your arms out straight and lock your elbows. Hold…and then relax.
- Make a Charles Atlas pose with your biceps. Hold the tension…. then let your arms go. Let your hands rest in your lap.
- Tighten your buttocks….hold…. then let go. Imagine the muscles in your hips going loose and limp.
- Press your legs together at your inner thighs all the way to your knees….hold the tension…. then relax. Feel your thigh muscles smoothing out and relaxing completely.
- Point your toes down. Hold…. then let go.
- Flex up your toes (being careful to avoid cramping). Hold…. then release and relax.
Scan all parts of your body for any residual tension and let it go. Focus on your whole body. Relax it. Release all tension, all tightness and all stress from all parts of your body. Let go completely on all levels, physically, emotionally and mentally. Allow yourself to simply rest and relax and be in this moment.