Progressive Muscle Relaxation involves slowly tensing and releasing muscle groups in the body to achieve a relaxation response. This method can be very helpful for managing stress and anxiety. The key to this method is to practice it often so that it becomes “normalized” for you. If you do it occasionally, it can induce some stress because it will feel unfamiliar and strange. CSAS recommends practicing it several times daily for the best results: during breaks from class, before bed, etc. You can then do it before exams or other stressful situations to help induce a relaxation response and calm yourself. The physiological response of the body, when this has become routine, will trigger a psychological response as well that will help you center yourself and keep calm. Follow the steps below and allow at least 15 minutes to fully complete this. If you are in a pinch for time (like before a test), you can just do a few quick muscle groups to still induce the relaxation response (such as your fists, mouth, feet). If you have physical conditions or soreness, consult with your doctor before performing these exercises (e.g., broken bones, pulled muscles).
Remember: practice makes predictable (normalized). Progressive muscle relaxation can help you fall asleep if you have insomnia. The more often you practice, the more likely this method will induce a relaxation response. You can add other muscle groups not listed if you feel comfortable.
Quick Tips: Do these while seated in a chair with a firm back. You will keep your back against the chair back and stay seated for the exercises. You can do these in the order below, reverse the order, or try any different order that works for you. Breathe slowly and deeply as you do the exercises. Think of really tensing your muscle groups as you tense them and then imagine stress, pain, and anxiety flowing out of you as you release the muscles. Hold the tension for about 10 or 15 seconds. Release for the same amount of time. Be cautious and don’t strain yourself or overextend your muscles—create some tension that is not painful.
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