Progressive muscle relaxation

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  1. Take three deep abdominal breaths, exhaling slowly each time, imagining the tension draining out of your body.
  2. Clench your fists. Hold for seven to 10 seconds, before releasing and feeling the tension drain out of your body (for 15-20 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. This area is often especially tense, so this step can be repeated twice.
  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.

Source: Bourne, E. J. (2020). The anxiety and phobia workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

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