Coping skills & self-soothing · Mood and anxiety · Uncategorized

Muscle Relaxation Exercises

new doc 2017-12-07 12.05.32_1Muscle relaxation can be helpful for anxiety, as well as for anger, stress, insomnia, and agitation.  People with stress or anxiety often feel so keyed up during the day that they don’t even remember what it’s like to be calm.  Muscle relaxation exercises release the tension in the muscles and help a person relax, lowering feelings of stress. They can also reduce physical problems, like painful muscles and headaches.

The goal is to learn what relaxed muscles feel like.  In the future when you start feeling tense, these exercises can help you calm down — to relax on command. Read this blog over, then try it. Keep in mind that this exercise get easier with practice.  The better you get at it, the quicker the relaxation response “kicks in.”


Before we start, here are a couple quick hints:

  • Set aside ten minutes to practice this exercise.
  • Find a safe place where you can finish without being disturbed.
  • Go slow.  Practice twice a day until you get the hang of it.
  • Remember, you don’t need to feel anxious to practice muscle relaxation.

How to do it

(1)    Comfortable position.  Find a comfortable position, sitting or lying down, and close your eyes.

(2)    Breath. First, focus on your breathing.  Breathe in slowly, feeling your stomach rise as you inhale.  Hold your breath a moment, as long as it feels comfortable, then breathe out slowly.   Do this at a comfortable pace.  Try not to breathe too fast.  Let yourself breathe five times before going onto the next step.

(3)    Muscle Relaxation.  Now you’re ready to focus on the exercise.  You’re going to relax your entire body one part at a time.

–Start with your right foot.  Each time you breathe out, imagine the stress leaving your foot and blowing off into the air.  It might take a few breaths to get the foot completely “relaxed.”

–Now do the same for your right calf.  Imagine all the tightness flowing out of the calf each time your breathe out.  Let the muscles loosen up.

–Next, focus on your right knee, then your the thigh, and again let the tension leave the muscles each time you exhale.  Take your time.  Let the leg grow heavy and limp.

–Now focus on your left leg, doing the same steps.  As you breathe out, picture the angst leaving too.  Little by little, let the left leg relax completely.

–Stay in this relaxed state and move slowly up through your body, focusing on different parts and following the same sequence of breathing and muscle relaxation.  Here’s the recommended order, though you might find a way that makes more sense for you:

  • Right foot, knee, leg
  • Left foot, knee, leg
  • Hip and buttocks, one side at a time
  • Stomach
  • Chest
  • Back
  • Shoulders, one at a time
  • Right arm and hand, then left arm and hand
  • Neck, back, then front
  • Back and top of head
  • Face, including ears, mouth, nose, brow, and finally eyes

–If you lose concentration or feel a part of your body tense up during the exercise, take a deep breath, exhale all tightness, and carry on.

(4)   Stay a while.  Finally, when you’ve relaxed your entire body, keep breathing as before and hold onto the sensation of being calm.  This is a safe place.  Stay here for a few minutes before going on with your day.

There, you’ve done it!


Want more information on ways to relax?  Consider HelpGuide.com’s Relaxation Techniques.

13 thoughts on “Muscle Relaxation Exercises

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