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What is Progressive Muscle Relaxation?

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a relaxation tool that asks you to systematically tense and relax your muscles, in order to destress. By first noticing the tension in your muscles, you can more easily replace the tension with relaxation, and ultimately reduce your physical symptoms of anxiety and depression.

PMR: Getting Ready

It is important to take a moment to get ready for the exercise in order to maximize your experience. Prior to engaging in PMR, we want to be sure to do the following: 

  1. Find a convenient time in your day to practice PMR, so you don’t feel rushed.
  2. Get comfortable in a position and close your eyes, but try not to fall asleep.
  3. Remember to flex each muscle so that you feel some tension, but NOT to the point that you feel pain.
  4. Stop if you ever feel uncomfortable during the exercise.

PMR: The Script

Most people who are just starting to practice PMR do so with the help of a live or pre-recorded script (Click here for a good example: Below, I have provided an example of a script that I use when introducing this skill to clients in order to further clarify what PMR can be like. 

  • While keeping the rest of your body relaxed, clench your right hand into a fist. Hold this fist for a few (5) seconds. Feel the tightness in your fingers, wrist and, forearm.
  • Now relax.
    1.  Notice the contrast between tight muscles and loose ones. Focus on your muscles as they completely relax. You may notice a pleasant sort of burning feeling that occurs when the muscles relax. Let go of the last bit of tension in these muscles. (Pause).
  • Repeat this process for the following muscle groups: Hands & forearm (right & left), bicep muscles (right & left), forehead, jaw, neck and shoulders, stomach, back, upper legs, calves & shins.
  • You may experience a feeling of heaviness in your body as the relaxation deepens. Or you may notice the sensation of lightness of your muscles. Whether you feel heaviness or lightness, enjoy this sensation.
  • Take a deep breath, and as you exhale the last bit of tension will leave your body. Experience this feeling of being at rest.
  • I’m now going to count backwards, from five down to one. With each number, you will slowly begin to feel more alert. 5. Starting to feel more alert. 4. Beginning to sit up. 3. Slowly opening your eyes. 2. Feeling more alert. And 1. Feeling relaxed and refreshed.

With practice, PMR can be an extremely useful relaxation tool with many benefits to those suffering with anxiety, depression, or other health issues. If you would like to learn more about Psychotherapy services at Coronado Psych, please contact us.

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