Relaxation Techniques Part I: Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Relaxation techniques can counteract the effects of chronic stress and can be used in stressful situations to help bring the body back to normal levels of functioning and to ease anxiety.

Practice it every day until it becomes natural to you, and then use it whenever you feel the need. If, after you’ve given it a good try, one technique doesn’t seem to work well, try the other (see Part II for descriptions of additional techniques).

General Instructions

Both of the techniques (Part I and II) use scripts that you (or a friend or family member with a soothing voice) can record. Playing the tape back will help you learn the technique. It is best to record your tape in a quiet room, reading the script slowly and carefully. Use a warm and encouraging voice and include pauses between each sentence and paragraph of the script. Your final tape should be about 15–20 minutes long.

When you are ready to use your tape, remember that these techniques will work best if you are in a comfortable position (sitting or lying down) in a place where you won’t be disturbed. Dim the light and loosen any tight clothing so you can breathe deeply and relax completely.

Script for Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Take a slow, deep breath . . . and relax. Relax. . . . Let your worries and thoughts drift away. Breathe slowly in . . . and out. . . . Relax.

Gently begin to pay attention to your left foot. . . . Feel your left foot. . . . Slowly tighten all the muscles in your left foot . . . and hold it . . . and relax them. Feel the tension melting away. . . . Feel your foot relaxed, and heavy, and warm. . . .

Breathe deeply in . . . and relax. . . .

Now begin to pay attention to your right foot. . . . Feel it. . . . Slowly tighten all the muscles in your right foot. . . and hold it . . . and relax them. Feel the tension melting away. . . . Feel your foot relaxed, and heavy, and warm. . . .

Breathe deeply in . . . and relax. . . .

(Continue following the pattern above, substituting different areas of your body for the italicized terms: left calf, right calf, left thigh, right thigh, hips and buttocks, stomach, chest, back, left arm and hand, right arm and hand, neck and shoulders, throat, jaw, eyes, forehead.)

Slowly scan your whole body, and if you feel any tension, relax . . . and let it go. . . . Now your whole body is relaxed . . . and at ease . . . and at peace. . . . Enjoy your quiet breathing. . . . Breathe in . . . and hold it . . .and breathe out. . . . Now your muscles are relaxed. . . . Your whole body is relaxed . . . and calm . . . and at peace. . . .

Enjoy this calm, peaceful sensation of deep relaxation . . . as you breathe in . . . and out . . . and in . . . and out. . . . Feel how soft and relaxed your muscles are. . . . Enjoy this calm sensation. . . . This is what it feels like when your body is relaxed . . . and at peace. . . . Whenever you feel tense, you can return to this refreshing, calm state of relaxation. . . .

Breathe deeply . . . and relax. . . . Your body feels refreshed and energized. . . . Take one more deep breath in . . . and relax. . . . You feel refreshed and ready . . . ready to bring this relaxed, energized feeling back with you into your everyday life. . . .

One more deep breath and you’re ready. . . . Open your eyes gently, and stretch. . . . Take a deep breath.