Stress Management 101



Physical tension is one of the biggest factors that contributes to and results from stress, anxiety, and fear.  We feel it in our back, shoulders, stomach, and neck (to name a few). But, by learning to physically relax your muscles through a technique called PROGRESSIVE MUSCLE RELAXATION, you can help to consistently lower your tension and stress levels.


Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a two-step process that teaches you how to systematically tense and release specific muscle groups.


Step One: Tensing Muscles

Focus on the target muscle group, for example, your right hand. Next, take a slow, deep breath and squeeze the muscles as hard as you can for about 10 seconds. It is important focus on and feel the sensations of tension. NOTE: The tensing is not intended to produce pain.  Make the muscle tension deliberate, yet gentle.


Step Two: Relaxing Muscles

Immediately following the muscle tension, quickly relax the target muscle group for about 20 seconds. As you release the muscles, you should feel them become loose and limp. Make sure to focus on the sensations of this relaxation and notice the difference between the tension and relaxation.

1.       Choose a quiet location, with a comfortable chair or bed

2.       Remember to tense for 10 seconds and relax for 20 seconds for the following muscle groups:

  • Lower Arms (Make fists with your hands and pull up on your wrists)
  • Upper arms (Pull your arms back in and towards your side)
  • Lower Legs (Flex your feet and pull your toes toward your upper body)
  • Upper Legs (Pull your kness together and lift your legs off the bed or chair)
  • Stomach (Pull your stomach in toward your spine very tightly)
  • Chest (Take a deep breath and hold it)
  • Shoulders (Imagine your shoulders are on strings and pull them up towards your ears)
  • Neck (Pull your chin down toward your chest and press your neck against the chair or bed)
  • Mouth, Throat, and Jaw (Clench your teeth and force the corners of your mouth back into a forced smile)
  • Eyes (Squeeze your eyes tightly shut for a few seconds and then release)
  • Lower forehead (Frown and pull your eyebrows down and toward the center)
  • Upper forehead (Raise your eyebrows as high as you can)

3.       Focus your attention on the sensations of tension and relaxation


  • Practice twice a day for seven days 

  • You do not need to be feeling anxious to practice.  In fact, it is easier at first to practice when you are calm. 

  • Find a comfortable, quiet environment to practice in.



Jennifer Welbel