Linda Walter LCSW

Life Without Anxiety

Relax While Self-Isolating?

How progressive muscle relaxation can help.

Posted Apr 18, 2020

 Pexels
Source: Pexels

Relaxation during a period of isolation. Does that sound like an oxymoron? It is possible to relax during this time of coronavirus. I am going to describe one way to do just that. It’s called progressive muscle relaxation.

Progressive muscle relaxation, or PMR, is very useful to use when feeling stressed, anxious or when preparing for sleep. The technique was first introduced in the 1930s by an American physician named Edmund Jacobson. The technique involves alternating tension and relaxation in all of the body’s major muscle groups.

First, I’d like you to set aside some time for yourself. Turn off your phone and let others know not to disturb you.

Begin by finding a comfortable position either sitting or lying down.

Loosen any tight clothing.

Rest your hands in your lap or on the arms of the chair. Take a few slow even breaths.

Now, take a deep breath, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Feel the rise and fall of your abdomen. Hold the breath for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly. Do this again.

Allow your attention to focus only on your body. It’s perfectly OK, and you should expect that your mind will wander during this exercise. When it does, just bring your attention back to the muscles you’re working on.

Take another deep breath, hold for a few seconds, and exhale slowly.

As you breathe, notice your stomach rising, and your lungs filling with air. Take your time and just spend a minute or two breathing and noticing your breathing. As you exhale, imagine the tension in your body being released and floating out of your body.

And again inhale … and exhale. Feel your body beginning to relax.

As you go through each step, remember to keep breathing normally. Try not to hold your breath.

Now tighten the muscles in your forehead by raising your eyebrows as high as you can and scrunching your forehead. Hold that for about five seconds. And then release the tension. It shouldn’t hurt or feel uncomfortable, but you should notice the isolation of the particular muscle.

Now make the biggest smile you can. Feeling your mouth and cheeks tense. Hold for about five seconds, and release.

Next, tighten your eye muscles by squinting your eyelids tightly shut. Hold for about five seconds, and release.

Gently pull your head back as if to look at the ceiling. Hold for about five seconds, and release.

Remember to breathe in … and breathe out …

Now, tightly, but without straining, clench your right fist and hold this position for about five seconds … and release.

Now, squeeze the muscles in your right forearm and hand as tightly as you can. Hold for about five seconds … and release.

Breath in … and breath out …

Next, tense your entire right arm. Hold for about five seconds, and release.

Now lift your shoulders up as if they could touch your ears. Hold for about five seconds, and release.

Breathe in … and breathe out …

Now, tightly, but without straining, clench your left fist and hold this position for about five seconds … and release.

Now, tense the muscles in your left forearm and hand. Hold for about five seconds … and release.

Next, tense your entire left arm. Hold for about five seconds, and release.

Tense your upper back by pulling your shoulders back trying to make your shoulder blades touch. Hold for about five seconds, and release.

Tighten your chest by taking a deep breath in, hold for about five seconds, and exhale, blowing out all the tension.

Now tighten the muscles in your stomach by sucking it in. Hold for about five seconds, and release.

Gently arch your lower back. Hold for about five seconds … and relax.

Tighten your buttocks. Hold for about five seconds … and release, imagine your hips falling loose.

Tense the muscles in your entire right leg and thigh. Hold for about five seconds … and relax.

Now flex your right foot, pulling your toes towards you and feeling the tension in your calves. Hold for about five seconds … and relax.

Tense the muscles in your entire left leg and thigh. Hold for about five seconds… and relax. Feel the tension melting away from your leg.

Now flex your left foot, pulling your toes towards you and feeling the tension in your calves. Hold for about five seconds … and relax.

Curl your toes under, tensing your feet. Hold for about five seconds, and release.

Now imagine a wave of relaxation slowly spreading through your body beginning at your head and going all the way down to your feet. Each wave feels warm and comforting.

Feel the weight of your relaxed body.

Breath in … and breath out …

Breath in … and breath out …

As you breathe, notice your stomach rising, and your lungs filling with air. Take your time and just spend a minute or two breathing and noticing your breathing.

As you exhale, imagine the tension in your body being released and flowing out of your body.

And again inhale … and exhale.

I hope you enjoyed the exercise. Use it whenever you feel stressed, tense, and to help you fall asleep.

I wish you good health.