*Want another way to learn and practice the techniques on this site? You can also try my new, free, CBT-based, choose-your-own-adventure game: Anxiety Quest.

11-Muscle Relaxation

Get into a comfortable position, close your eyes and just sit quietly for a few seconds.

Build up the tension in your lower arms by making fists with your hands and bending your wrists in towards your body.  Focus on the tension in that part of your body. (10 second pause)  Now very slowly release the tension.  Focus on the feelings of relaxation. (12 second pause)

Build up the tension in your upper arms by squeezing your elbows back and in against your sides.  Focus on the symptoms of tension. (10 second pause)  Now very slowly, release the arms, and focus on the difference in sensations. (12 second pause)

Build up the tension in the lower legs by flexing your feet and toes up as high as possible.  Focus on the tension in that part of your body. (12 second pause)  Now very gradually, release the tension, and feel the difference in the muscles as they gradually relax. (15 second pause)

Build up the tension in the upper legs by squeezing your knees together and lifting your legs off the chair.  Focus on the tightness. (12 second pause)  Now very slowly, release the tension.  Focus on the feelings of relaxation. (15 second pause)

Build up the tension in your abdomen by sucking your stomach in very tightly.  Focus on the tightness in that part of your body.  (12 second pause)  Now very slowly, let the abdomen go. Feel the sense of warmth circulating across your abdomen. (15 second pause)

Build up the tension in your shoulders by imagining your shoulders are on strings and being pulled up towards your ears.  Feel the tension in that part of your body. (12 second pause)  Now very slowly, let the shoulders droop down, and focus on the gradual release from tension. (15 second pause)

Build up the tension in your neck by pulling your back against the chair and pulling your chin down towards your chest.  Focus on the stretching in the back of your neck. (12 second pause)   Now very slowly, release the tension, and focus on the relaxation. (15 second pause)

Build up the tension around your mouth and jaw by clenching your teeth together and forcing the corners of your mouth back into a forced smile.  Focus on the tightness. (12 second pause)  Now very slowly, release the tightness, and focus on the difference in sensations. (15 second pause)

Build up the tension around your eyes by squeezing your eyes tightly together. (12 second pause)  Now very slowly release.  Let the tension disappear, and feel the difference as the muscles relax. (15 second pause)

Build up the tension across the lower forehead by frowning and pulling your eyebrows down and toward the center.  Focus on the tension. (12 second pause).  Now very slowly, release the tension, and focus on the difference in sensations. (15 second pause)

Build up the tension in the upper forehead by raising your eyebrows up as high as possible. (12 second pause)  Now slowly, relax and focus on the feelings of relaxation. (15 second pause)

Now your whole body is feeling comfortable and relaxed.  Counting from one to five, feel yourself becoming even more relaxed: One, let all the tension leave your body; two, sinking further and further into relaxation;  three, feeling more and more relaxed; four, feeling very relaxed; five, feeling deeply relaxed.

As you spend a few minutes in this relaxed state, think about your breathing.  Feel the cool air as you breathe in and the warm air as you breathe out.  Your breathing is slow and regular and through your abdomen.  Every time you breathe out, think to yourself the word “relax” -- relax, feeling comfortable and relaxed. (1 minute pause)

Now counting backward from five to one, gradually feel yourself becoming more alert and awake:  Five, feeling more awake; four, coming out of the relaxation; three, feeling more alert; two, sitting up; one, open your eyes.