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Gail Petrowsky

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Progressive Relaxation - A Technique for Controlling Stress and Finding Balance

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a technique that will help you deal with stress, relax and center yourself. While you can turn to Progressive Relaxation In times of extreme stress, including a relaxation and meditation practice as a daily ritual will help you become a more balanced, healthy and fulfilled person.

This article is an introduction to a progressive relaxation technique you can use to decrease your stress and gain more control over your mind and body.

Dr. Edmund Jacobson, a Harvard trained Psychiatrist developed the progressive relaxation method nearly 80 years ago after noticing that people under stress tensed their muscles, and that tension created anxiety, headaches, ulcers, high blood pressure and colitis.

How to Practice Progressive Relaxation

  • Go to a quiet, softly lit room. Shut the door and sit in a comfortable chair, feet flat on the floor, eyes closed. 
  • Become aware of your breathing. 
  • Take in a few deep breaths, and as you let each breath out, mentally say the word, “Relax”.
  • Concentrate on your face and feel any tension in your face and eyes. Make a mental picture of this tension - it might be a rope tied in a knot or a clenched fist, and then mentally picture it relaxing and becoming comfortable, like a limp rubber band.
  • Experience your face and eyes becoming relaxed and as they do so feel a wave of relaxation spreading through your body. 
  • Tense your eyes and face, squeezing tightly, then relax them and feel the relaxation spread throughout your body. Then apply the previous instructions to other parts of your body.
  • Move slowly down your body – jaw, neck, chest, abdomen, thighs, calves, ankles, feet, toes, until every part of you is relaxed. For each part of the body mentally picture the tension. Tense the area, then relax it. Picture the tension melting away.
  • When you have relaxed each part of the body, rest quietly in this comfortable state for two to five minutes.
  • Let the muscles in your eyelids relax, get ready to open your eyes and become aware of the room. 
  • Now let your eyes open. You are ready to go on with your usual activities. 

You can also listen to my guided relaxation and meditation recordings on my Youtube channel as well as on Spotify and the other streaming platforms.