Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Developed by Edmund Jacobson in the 1920s, this technique gets you to monitor and control tension in your muscles. You deliberately tense sets of muscles, and release. Starting at your toes, you work your way up slowly to your head and face.
Research has shown PMR to be effective in reducing depression and tension (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3289204), as well as being an effective method of pain relief (www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0104-11692002000500005). It’s also said to be great for insomnia, stress, and anxiety!
Breathe deeply as you tense the muscle sets, and concentrate on the feelings within those muscles. With time and practice, you may like to add visualisations. The whole thing should take around 15 minutes. Try practising twice a day to start with.
Either lay flat on the floor, or if you’re not in an appropriate place to do that, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes. When you tense each muscle set, hold the tensions for 5 seconds, relax for 30 seconds, then move to the next muscle. At the end, breathe deeply.
Foot and ankle – curl your toes down and point feet
Lower leg – tighten calf muscles
Thighs – squeeze thigh muscles
Buttocks – tighten by pulling together
Lower abdomen and back – pull your stomach in
Chest and mid back – take a deep breath
Shoulders and neck – raise your shoulders to your ears
Hands – clench your fist
Arms – draw forearms to shoulders, and make a fist to tighten bicep
Forehead – raise your eyebrows
Eyes – clench eyes tight shut
Mouth and jaw – open mouth wide to stretch jaw muscles
There are shortened versions of PMR which may be useful once you are familiar with the technique. A useful resource detailing these can be found here: www.anxietybc.com/sites/default/files/MuscleRelaxation.pdf