First, it is about generating tension in a part of the body and feeling what tension is like. Then, it is about relaxing that part of the body and you can feel the relaxation.
It is not only important to tighten and relax the muscles but also that your mind is focused on each of the processes. Remember that it is a physical and mental exercise.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This exercise will help you reduce your body tension, your stress levels and relax when you feel anxious. It can also help reduce physical back pain or headaches, among others, as well as help you improve the quality of sleep.
People with anxiety are often very tense during the day, to such an extent that they do not remember what it’s like to be relaxed and feel their body calm.
Through this exercise, they learn to distinguish between stressed muscles and relaxed muscles. In this way, they are better able to recognize during the day the first signs of tension and can then relax them, thus preventing the onset of anxiety symptoms.
How to practice progressive muscle relaxation
For progressive relaxation, look for a place where you feel calm and comfortable.
You can do this by lying on the bed, on a couch or also sitting in an armchair but trying not to fall asleep. If you think you can easily fall asleep, you better sit in a chair.
Close your eyes and take 5 deep breaths before you begin. Let all your thoughts and concerns move away and focus your attention on the breath. In how the air enters and leaves your body.
The exercise takes about 20 minutes. Be sure not to be interrupted during the relaxation.
You should practice it once a day for 2 weeks. After this period in which you will already have a training, you will be able to carry out a shorter version of this relaxation that I explain to you at the end of the article.
- Tense and relax your hands
Let’s begin the relaxation by the left hand. Inhale deeply and at the same time you inhale, tighten the fist of your left hand tightly.
Hold for a few seconds by squeezing your fist and feel the tension that is generated. Focus your attention on the tension of the hand.
As you expel the air, slowly relax your hand and focus your attention on the feeling of your hand relaxing. It is important that you consciously feel all the sensations of your tension-strain hand.
Repeat the same exercise with your right hand. As you inhale, grasp the fist of your right hand. Feel the force in your hand by tensing it, and when you exhale, relax your hand progressively. Feel the relaxation in your right hand.
- Tense and relax the biceps
Let’s continue by the arms and concretely the biceps. Inhale deeply and at the same time as you inhale, take your left hand to your left shoulder by squeezing the biceps of this same arm (without clenching your fist as your fist has already relaxed before).
Keep your left biceps in this position consciously feeling the tension that is generated? After a few seconds, proceed to gradually relax the biceps and returning your arm to the starting position.
Feel at all times the relaxation process of the biceps.
Repeat the exercise now with your right arm. As you breathe, tighten the biceps feeling the tension and relaxes few seconds later, the biceps becoming aware of relaxation.
- Tenses and relaxes the triceps
As you can see in the picture, the triceps is the muscle we have under the biceps.
To tighten your triceps, take deep air by lifting your left arm over your head. With your right hand, squeeze your left arm with force down.
This way, you will notice how the triceps tenses.
You can see how to do it in the image that follows.
During the tension, feel how this part of the body is tightened; attend to each of the sensations that appear when tensing the muscle.
Then exhale the air through your mouth and see the triceps relaxing and gradually repositioning your arms to the initial position.
Take care of each of the movements that you do and feel the relaxation that is gradually coming off in your arm.
Repeat the exercise with your right arm.
After this exercise, how do you feel your arms? What feelings do you have in your hands and arms? Take a few seconds to analyze these feelings.
Face and neck
- Tense and relax the forehead
Let’s now tighten and relax the parts that make up the face. Let’s start with the forehead.
He inhales deeply and presses his forehead wrinkling as if you are getting angry. Continue to generate this voltage for a few seconds. Feel the tightness in your forehead, how it is slowly loading.
Progressively expel the air from your lungs and at the same time see dispensing your forehead. Feel how it relaxes, loosens and calms down. Take a few seconds to feel your forehead relaxed now.
Do the exercise again.
- Tense and relax your eyes
Let’s go through the eyes. Inhale deeply as you close both eyes tightly. Do not do it if you wear contact lenses, you can hurt yourself.
As you close your eyes tightly on the inspiration, feel the tension that is generated in your eyes and the load that is generated in the area. After a few seconds, it expels the air of your body at the same time as you relax the eyes feeling how it loosens and the area is quiet.
Watch closely how this relaxation is.
Repeat the exercise one more time.
- Tense and relax the mouth
We left our eyes relaxed and down to the mouth.
Take air deep through the nose and open your mouth as much as you can. Feel the tension that is appearing in the jaw. Stay in this position for a few seconds and watch the charge being generated.
In the exhalation, relaxes the jaw and feels the sensation of relaxation in this zone.
How do I feel my jaw now?
- Tense and relax the neck
We keep going down leaving the face and reaching the neck. Take in air and as you inhale, turn your neck by rotating it to the right until you cannot turn more. Hold your neck in that position. Feel tension build up in this area and consciously observe neck pressure.
After a few seconds, in the exhalation, return your neck to the initial position and observe the sensation of relaxation.Then do it again by rotating the neck to the left. Stay for a few seconds feeling the tension and stiffness. When you draw the air, relax your neck in the initial position.
How do I feel my neck now?
- Tense and relax the shoulders
Inhale deeply and in doing so, raise your shoulders upwards. Hold your shoulders up and wait in this position for a few seconds. Feel the awareness as you carry this area of your body. Note.
He then expels the air and relaxes the shoulders by returning them to the normal position. Feel the relaxation of your shoulders.
Then take air and take your shoulders back. Keep your shoulders in this position by observing each of the sensations that appear.
At the expiration, relax the shoulders and consciously feel the relaxation. Take a few seconds to enjoy this feeling.
- Tense and relax the chest
It leaves the shoulders and low to the chest. It generates tension in the chest taking deep air. Feel your chest swell and hold for a few seconds.
Exhale all the air and feel how your chest relaxes.
Repeat the exercise again.
- Tense and relax the belly
We continue down the trunk to the belly. To tighten your belly, push in and hold for a few seconds in this position. Feel the tension that is generated in your belly to inspire.
On exhaling, relax the belly and watch the feeling of the belly relaxed.
Then, take deep air and, this time, generates the tension pulling belly. Notice how this tension is, observe any sensation that appears.
As you exhale, relax your belly and watch your belly relaxed now. Take a few seconds to feel this area of your body.
- Tense and relax the hip
We continue down the body and reach the hip. It generates tension in the hip pressing, in the inspiration, the ass against the chair or the sofa in which you are.
Hold for a few seconds in this position and try to consciously feel the pressure of your hips.
Relax your hips as you turn and observe the sensations that remain in this area. Observe your relaxed and relaxed hips.
Repeat the exercise again.
- Tense and relax legs
As you inhale deeply, stretch your legs, and then place your raised toes facing you. Stay in this position for a few seconds. Feel the tension that runs through your legs and watch closely.
By expelling the air from your body, relax your toes keeping your legs straight. Observe the relaxation of the leg.
Repeat the exercise but now point your toes to the opposite side. Hold for a few seconds in this position. Watch the tension and the load that is generated on the legs and the instep. Become aware of these feelings.
When you exhale, relax your toes and also relax your legs by placing them back in their initial position. Take a few moments to consciously feel the relaxation you now feel in your legs. Look closely at these feelings of calm and relaxation.
You have finished the tension and relaxation of each part of your body. Take a minute to explore how your body is now. Perform a scan of each zone and see what feelings you have.
Perform 5 deep breaths and observe with awareness how air enters the lungs and oxygenates your entire body.
How I feel? What sensations appear? How do I feel my body? Enjoy this moment.
Brief version of progressive muscle relaxation
In the short version, you do not need to tenses and relax each muscle but it is done in muscle groups. The muscle groups are:
- Arms (biceps), shoulders and neck
- Belly and chest
- Hips and legs
When breathing in the air, tighten (eg hip and legs) at the same time and when exhaling relaxes both parts of the body. Become aware of tension and relaxation.
During this relaxation is very good use of words or phrases that make you connect with relaxation. Examples of these words or phrases can be: relax, let yourself go, feel peace, feel good…
This reduced version you can do it anywhere and anytime you feel stressed and want to relax your body.
Once you master the technique of tension and relaxation, you can perform only the relaxation part without having to strain first. For example, instead of tightening and relaxing the neck, try to just relax it.
At first, the feeling of relaxation will be less than when you first tense, but with practice, it will serve to relax you more and more.
Final Note: Remember to practice progressive relaxation frequently, whether you are anxious or not. In fact, exercise will be even more effective if you do it when you do not need to relax.
At first, practicing this technique can be tedious, but keep in mind that as you go training, you will gain the ability to manage something as important as managing your anxiety on a day to day basis.