Progressive muscle relaxation

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Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and relaxing of different muscle groups in succession. It is particularly useful for clients with intrusive thoughts. Before starting, make sure the client is sitting in a quiet and comfortable place. Ask the client that when they tense a particular muscle group, they do so strongly and hold the tension for 10 seconds. Encourage the client to concentrate on the feelings in his/her body of tension and release. Tell the client when relaxing muscles to feel the tension draining out of his/her body and enjoy the sensation of relaxation for 15 seconds. Isolate each muscle group at a time, allowing the other muscle groups to remain relaxed. The following instructions are based on Bourne [1210]. A client copy is also available in the Worksheets section of these Guidelines.

  1. Take three deep abdominal breaths, exhaling slowly each time, imagining the tension draining out of your body.
  2. Clench your fists. Hold for 10 seconds (AOD workers may want to count to 10 slowly), before releasing and feeling the tension drain out of your body (for 15 seconds).
  3. Tighten your biceps by drawing your forearms up toward your shoulders and make a muscle with both arms. Hold, then relax.
  4. Tighten your triceps (the muscles underneath your upper arms) by holding out your arms in front of you and locking your elbows. Hold, then relax.
  5. Tense the muscles in your forehead by raising your eyebrows as high as you can. Hold, then relax.
  6. Tense the muscles around your eyes by clenching your eyelids shut. Hold, then relax. Imagine sensations of deep relaxation spreading all over your eyes.
  7. Tighten your jaws by opening your mouth so widely that you stretch the muscles around the hinges of your jaw. Hold, then relax.
  8. Tighten the muscles in the back of your neck by pulling your head way back, as if you were going to touch your head to your back. Hold, then relax.
  9. Take deep breaths and focus on the weight of your head sinking into whatever surface it is resting on.
  10. Tighten your shoulders as if you are going to touch your ears. Hold, then relax.
  11. Tighten the muscles in your shoulder blades by pushing your shoulder blades back. Hold, then relax.
  12. Tighten the muscles of your chest by taking in a deep breath. Hold, then relax.
  13. Tighten your stomach muscles by sucking your stomach in. Hold, then relax.
  14. Tighten your lower back by arching it up (don’t do this if you have back pain). Hold, then relax.
  15. Tighten your buttocks by pulling them together. Hold, then relax.
  16. Squeeze the muscles in your thighs. Hold, then relax.
  17. Tighten your calf muscles by pulling your toes towards you. Hold, then relax.
  18. Tighten your feet by curling them downwards. Hold, then relax.
  19. Mentally scan your body for any leftover tension. If any muscle group remains tense, repeat the exercise for those muscle groups.
  20. Now imagine a wave of relaxation spreading over your body.