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Progressive Relaxation

Your body needs relaxation to reduce stress and undo the fight-or-flight response. It helps to plan for 20 minutes of relaxation every day. This is time for yourself. Sit or lie comfortably. Limit distractions like phones. Listen to soft music or just sit in silence. And try the relaxation technique below.

Man in chair outside, relaxing with eyes closed.

How to do progressive relaxation

Progressive relaxation helps your whole body relax. To try this technique, follow these steps:

  1. Find a quiet room. Sit in a comfortable chair or lie on your back.

  2. Breathe in deeply to a slow count of 5. Feel your belly, chest, and back expand. Breathe out slowly to a count of 5.

  3. After a few minutes, breathe in deeply. Tighten the muscles in your feet. Notice how it feels. Hold the tension for 3 seconds.

  4. Breathe out while relaxing the tightened muscles. Notice how relaxed you feel.

  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 with another muscle group. You can move from your feet, calves, and thighs to your stomach, arms, and hands.

Remember the 4 A’s

  • Avoid a stressor. If someone is smoking when you’re trying to quit, leave the room.

  • Accept a stressor you can’t change, like a job loss, by knowing that your feelings are normal.

  • Alter how you deal with a stressor. If a constantly ringing phone is a stressor, let the answering machine pick up.

  • Adapt to some stressors. When starting a new exercise program, instead of focusing on how hard it will be, think how good you will feel.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brown, Kim, APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
Date Last Reviewed: 2/25/2016
© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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