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Using Progressive Muscle Relaxation To Reduce Stress

Updated on August 10, 2014

Symptoms of Stress

Everyone at one time or another in their life experiences stress. Some more frequently than others. Stress is a natural response of the body when life becomes very demanding. As they say most things are alright in moderation – stress is no different. It keeps us alert and productive, though, stress can be overwhelming. Physical, emotional and behavioral pitfalls are the result of too much stress.

Observe the emotional, physical, and behavioral symptoms below to evaluate if you too have too much stress in your life.


• Fatigue

• Sleep difficulties

• Stomachache

• Chest pain

• Muscle pain and tension

• Headaches and migraines

• Indigestion

• Nausea

• Increased sweating

• Weakened immune system (more frequent colds and flues)

• Neck and back pain


  • Unhealthy eating (over or under eating)
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Social Withdrawal
  • Nail biting

How many stress symptoms do you experience more than 3 times per week?

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• Loss of motivation

• Increased irritability

and anger

• Anxiety

• Depression and sadness

• Restlessness

• Inability to focus

• Mood instability

• Decreased sex drive

Know your symptoms when you become tense
Know your symptoms when you become tense | Source

Recognizing Muscle Tension

Muscle tension is commonly linked to stress, anxiety and fear since tension in a biological mechanism that prepares the body for danger. Even when free from danger the body responds in the same manner. At times one may not realize they are tense and without awareness may not be able to release that tension. Backaches and headaches have also been associated with stress and tension.

When the body remains tense for an extended period of time, the feeling may feel absolutely normal. Not realizing that the muscle tension is the root to much of your body pain and headaches. Stress is normal and a part of life, though, remaining tense is something that can be relieved.

The body responds to negative emotions by constricting muscles, hence the term “tense.” One can also experience muscle pains and exhaustion. How do you respond to anxiety? Do you tense up?


Importance of Preparing

Before beginning recognize with any physical activity comes risks and the need to practice any new routine. Keep in mind the following points.

• Physical injuries.

If you have any injuries, or a history of physical problems that may cause muscle pain, always consult your doctor before you start.

• Be mindful and find an appropriate location. Keep in mind that an area with no or minimal distractions are idea.

• Make yourself comfortable.

Use a chair that is comfortable for you – don’t forget to include your head. Wear loose and comfortable clothing and take off your shoes.

• Internal mechanics.

Use this technique during an optimal time such as avoiding big meals and certainly not after consuming intoxicating substances.

Other Techniques to Reduce Stress

  • Taking a walk
  • Going to the gym
  • hanging out with a friend
  • Counting to 10 with your eyes closed
  • Thinking of something positive
  • Taking up a hobby

Balanced self-care contributes to stress reduction as described in the above activities. If you find that none of these apply to you find something fun to aid in reducing stress.

What is Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Muscle relaxation can be particularly helpful in reducing experienced tension. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a proven method of reducing and/or eliminating muscle tension. PRM works by purposely tensing and relaxing muscle groups in an organized fashion. By creating a routine using this method, one may find relief from stress and tension. Follow the guide below to learn basic muscle relaxation techniques.

Guided Imagery To Help Begin PMR

Order Of Muscle Groups

Tensing your muscles in this order helps to maintain focus and controls the body. It is thought that starting from your head and ending in the feet will then release your stress out of the body and into the world away from you.

  1. Face
  2. Neck and shoulder
  3. Arms
  4. Hands
  5. Abdomen
  6. Back
  7. Buttocks
  8. Thighs
  9. Calves
  10. Feet

Basic Technique

The most important step is to find time and a quiet place to practice.

  • Begin by slowing your breathing.
  • inhale for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 4 at least 5 times
  • Once breathing is controlled, begin by tensing one muscle group at a time - starting from the top of the body and working your way down.
  • Be mindful and recognize the tension you are purposefully forcing into your body
  • ** Always stop if you feel pain.
  • Hold the tension for approximately 5 seconds, counting in your head to help maintain focus.
  • Now relax the muscles and purposefully keep it relaxed for approximately 10 seconds.
  • Move on to the next body group until you reach your toes
  • That’s it. When done remain seated and allow your body to slowly become alert again.
  • Recognize the release of tension

Practice means progress. It takes time for one to feel comfortable with this technique. Practice helps one to become more aware of the tenseness of the bodies muscles and how to successfully relax them. If you are interested in tracking your progress, keep a journal and rate your tension before and after using PMR.

Good luck training your body to relax.

Keep A Journal

Journaling your progress is one method of evaluating if PMR is working for you. Document the days and time spent using this technique. Also, it is very important to record a before and after stress log. Document the stress that you were experiencing prior to the technique and that you were experiencing about a half an hour after using the technique. Do not record how you are feeling immediately after since it is customary to feel very relaxed. It is more important to document how your body is feeling after it has had some time to return to normalcy. By keeping these logs you can recognize over time the positive impact that PMR has had on your body and will also reinforce the reasons to continue using this technique.

If you are feeling fatigued, depressed and experience many headaches it is also important to consider other conditions aside from stress that may be increasing those symptoms. Regular health checks are vital in determining if stress or other health related issues are a factor in the symptoms you are experiencing.

In Conclusion

Progressive Muscle Relaxation is just one technique that has been proven to reduce or diminish symptoms related to stress. However, practicing these techniques is the only way to determine if they will work for you. So the take home message is of course

Practice, Practice, Practice


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