Relaxation Technique: Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Whenever we experience stress and anxiety, our body switches to a ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a variety of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine to prepare our body for physical action.

One thing you would notice is that your muscles tend to tense up, as it is our body’s way of protecting from any form of perceived threat, in this case, stressful or anxiety-provoking situation.

If our muscles are in a tensed state for long periods of time, it may trigger other symptoms in our body, such as tension-type headache and migraine. Hence, it is important for us to learn a few relaxation techniques to not only keep ourselves relax but also to reduce muscle tension.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a technique that is found to be helpful when it comes to reducing stress and anxiety in our body by having the person to slowly tense and relax the muscle. This exercise can help the person to achieve immediate feelings of relaxation.

Important note: If you are currently having any injuries, or have any history of physical problems, please consult your doctor first before starting this relaxation exercise.


PMR by Children’s Mercy Hospital together with Bazillion Pictures

General procedure

  1. To start this relaxation exercise, make sure that you are in a quiet, with minimal distraction environment, and sitting in a comfortable position.
  2. Applying Tension
    • Focus on the targeted muscle group
    • Take a slow, deep breath while squeezing on muscle group as hard as you can (not to the point of strain). Keep the muscle tensed for 5 seconds
  3. Relaxing Tense Muscles
    • After about 5 seconds, exhale while relaxing your muscles, letting all the tightness flow out of you
    • Pay special attention to the feeling of releasing tension in each muscle, which results in feelings of relaxation
    • Keep it relaxes for approximately 10 seconds before proceeding to the next muscle group

Muscle groups to be practised on

  1. Hands and arms (for both left and right – one hand at a time)
    • Make a tight first
    • Bring forearm up to your shoulder and tighten your upper arm
  2. Forehead
    • Raise your eyebrows as high as you can
  3. Eyes and Cheek
    • Squeeze your eyes tightly shut and make a tight smile
  4. Mouth and Jaw
    • Open your mouth wide and hold it
  5. Neck
    • Pull your head back slowly and hold
  6. Shoulder
    • Bring your shoulders up to your ears
    • Push your shoulders to blade back and your chest forward and hold
  7. Stomach
    • Let your chest and stomach expand all the way, like a balloon filling with air
  8. Leg
    • Tighten up your thighs by pushing yourself out of your chair
    • Pull your toes up towards your shin, tightening your calve muscle
  9. Toes
    • Curl your toes downwards and hold

Remember to practise it daily, that way you will know what to do to help you feel relax.


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