Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Both diaphragmatic breathing and the CALM exercise are helpful for breaking up stress when it starts to occur. Sometimes, though, they do not produce the deep level of relaxation that is desired. Other times, they are not enough to break up stress (for example, when it is very intense). For such times, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) can be very helpful. It requires more time and a quiet environment, but the results can be very worthwhile! PMR involves tensing one muscle group to about 1/3–2/3 maximum tension for four to five seconds, followed by a complete release of tension for forty-five to sixty seconds. The muscle group is then tensed again and given a second release period. After completing both cycles, the next muscle group is used. The muscles used and the positions for tensing them are presented below:

1. BOTH LEGS: Lift both legs off the ground, straighten your knees and point your toes toward your head.

2. CHEST: Take a very deep breath (through the upper chest, not the diaphragm) and hold it.

3. BOTH ARMS: Turn your palms up and then make a fist. Bring your fists up to your shoulders while tensing the biceps.

4. ABDOMEN: Tighten these muscles as if you were about to be elbowed in the stomach.

5. SHOULDERS: Lift both shoulders up toward your ears.

6. BACK OF NECK: Tuck in and lower your chin toward your chest.

7. FOREHEAD: Raise your eyebrows.

8. EYES: Squint.