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woman using progressive relaxation for anxiety

Feeling Anxious? Try Progressive Relaxation

Anxiety can develop into a debilitating condition. It may begin to stop you from partaking in activities that you enjoy and love. You may turn inward and avoid situations, such as socializing, that may exacerbate it.

And then it gets worse. It prevents you from going after what you want in life. It takes a hit at your self-confidence. It cripples you to the point that you can’t live your life.

Anxiety is one of the many mental health issues that affects millions of people worldwide.

You aren’t alone.

Over 40 million adults in the United States have anxiety or an anxiety disorder.

But it’s a very treatable condition. If you feel anxious, we encourage you to seek out help. The earlier, the better.

In addition to getting the proper professional help you need, you may choose to start performing a daily progressive relaxation technique. Why do we recommend this technique? It’s proven to help reduce anxiety and stress. And we’ve even tried it out ourselves (it worked)!

Progressive Relaxation & How it Helps Anxiety

Various studies have proven progressive relaxation to help ease anxiety and related symptoms. It has even shown to alleviate depression in some cases.

In a study published in 2018, researchers examined the use of progressive relaxation in helping to reduce anxiety and depression in those with leprosy. The patients in the study used this stress management and relaxation technique over the course of 6 weeks.

It was concluded that progressive relaxation significantly helped reduce anxiety and depression symptoms in these patients, as well as improve overall well-being.

But how does it do this? Progressive relaxation requires you to tense up your muscles and release them. It makes you more aware of how you hold yourself on a day-to-day basis. Are you tense? Progressive relaxation will make you more aware of this and help you release it, along with building anxiety.

For many individuals dealing with anxiety, they aren’t even aware how tense they are. The goal is that the more you do this relaxation and stress management technique, the more aware you become of the onset of anxiety symptoms.

It acts as a “cue,” helping you relax and rebalance.

How To Do Progressive Relaxation

In order to perform this technique, you’ll need to set aside 15 minutes a day. For some, this may add anxiety and stress, but know that these 15 minutes could potentially make a world of difference. Try to find time to do this when you’re already calm - this can help.

Find a quiet and comfortable spot, preferably an area where you won’t be interrupted. Many experts recommend practicing the technique 2 times a day when you are first starting out. This will help train your mind and body when it comes to using it in real-world scenarios.

Lie down in your comfortable and quiet space. For many individuals, this may be their bed or couch. And it may be tempting to perform this technique before bed. While you can do this, also choose to do it during a time when you are awake and aware. This way, you will be able to implement it during more wakeful scenarios, such as at work or throughout your day-to-day.

Step 1: Tense Up

For this technique, you tense up and progressively relax one muscle or specific body part at a time. It’s best to start from the head or feet and work your way down or up. For explanation purposes, we are going to discuss this technique in relation to the hand.

Take one big breath and simply squeeze your hand as hard as you can. Hold for 5-10 seconds. And try to truly feel this tension. If your muscle shake, that’s okay. If there is slight discomfort, that’s also okay. But make sure to not hurt yourself. If you have an injury, be cautious.

And aim to isolate. Just tense up one hand at first. Avoid also tensing other muscles or body parts around it. If you do, don’t worry - this will get better with time.

Step 2: Relax

After 5 seconds of tensing up your one hand, release and relax. Exhale and allow your hand to go limp.

This is the most important part of this technique. As you release the tension, focus on how that feels. Note how relaxing your hands feels versus tensing it up. Narrow in on it.

Relax for about 15 seconds here, before moving onto the next body part or muscle.

What order should actually you go in?

As aforementioned, you may choose to start at your head or feet. If starting at the feet, use the following order. If you choose to work from your head and downward, complete the sequence in the opposite order.

  1. Foot - Curl your toes.
  2. Lower Leg - Create tension in the calf by bringing your toes toward you.
  3. Upper Leg - Squeeze your thigh muscles by pushing the back of your knee down.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 on the opposite side.
  5. Hand - Curl or clench your hand in a fist.
  6. Arm - Squeeze your arm by bending your elbow, bringing your forearm toward you.
  7. Repeat steps 5-6 on the opposite side.
  8. Buttocks - Squeeze your buttocks or glutes together.
  9. Abdominals - Pull your belly inward.
  10. Chest - Take a big breath and tighten across your chest.
  11. Shoulders - Shrug both of your shoulders up toward your head and ears.
  12. Mouth - Open your mouth as wide as you can.
  13. Eyes - Shut your eyelids tightly.
  14. Forehead - Move your eyebrows up as high as you can to create tension in the forehead.

Again, the whole process should take about 15 minutes.

Try It Out! Does Progressive Relaxation Work for You?

If you struggle with it, there are resources online that can help guide you through each step. A guided progressive relaxation can be a great place to start, especially if you’re nervous or anxious about trying a new technique.

Once you get good at it, you can use this technique in your day-to-day. When you notice tension, you can hold that tension for 5-10 seconds, and then progressively relax and release it.

Combat anxiety before it starts. Try out progressive relaxation today!

Related Article: 5 Sleepy Tips to Wind-Down Before Bed for Your Best Sleep Yet

Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden

"Believing in yourself is really half the battle," says Krista. Anything is possible and you really can achieve anything you set your mind to, is her motto. Physiotherapist, Piano player, skydiver, yogi, adventure traveler and energetic force of positivity, Krista is herself a (delightful) force to be reckoned with! As... Read More

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