EXERCISE: Calming the threat system: Muscle relaxation

When we feel under threat our muscles tense up – ready to fight or take flight. Keeping the muscles tense is one of the body’s ways of trying to keep you safe. One way of letting your body know that you are safe is to deliberately relax all of your muscles.

Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing, then relaxing, all of the muscle groups in turn. Find a comfortable spot, sitting or lying down. Then, for each of the muscle groups in turn, follow this pattern:

  1. Tense the muscles

  2. Notice the tension for a few moments

  3. Release

  4. Notice the sensation of relaxation as the tension drains away

Relax each of the muscle groups in turn:

  • Fists

  • Upper arms

  • Shoulders (lift up slightly)

  • Upper back (shoulders back slightly)

  • Stomach

  • Buttocks

  • Thighs

  • Lower legs / calves

  • Feet

  • Neck (gently move neck back)

  • Forehead

  • Muscles around eyes (scrunch face up)

  • Jaw