Tools to Help with Stress: Progressive Muscle Relaxation

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Progressive muscle relaxation helps to relieve stress or tension. As you breathe in, you tighten a group of muscles and as you breathe out, you relax the same group of muscles. By working on different muscle groups, you can relax the whole body. Choose a comfortable position lying down or sitting.

  • Breathe in and tense the first muscle group for 5-10 seconds.
  • Breathe out quickly to relax that muscle group.
  • Rest for a few seconds, Notice how your muscles feel.  
  • Repeat this 3-5 times.
  • Examples of muscle groups: clenching hands, bending wrists and elbows, shrugging shoulders, wrinkling the forehead, closing eyes, pressing lips together, curling and uncurling the toes.

Relaxation script for younger children

Read this slowly to your child while they are in a comfortable position, allowing time for your child to tighten and soften their muscles. Feel free to change this script in any way that feels good for you and your child.

Hands and arms

Pretend you are holding an orange in your right hand. As you take a breath in, squeeze the orange with all your might. See if you can notice the tightness in your hand and your arm as you squeeze. As you exhale, go ahead and allow your hand to relax around the orange. Notice how your hand and arms feels. Can you feel the difference between how it feels when you squeeze and when you release? Go ahead and try now with the other hand.  

Arms and shoulders

Imagine for a moment that you are a sunflower, reaching upwards toward the sun. Take a breath in and stretch your arms up and over your head as high as you can, reaching for the sun. See if you can reach your shoulders toward the sky as well. As you exhale, let your arms and shoulders soften and fall back down by your sides. Can you feel the sunshine on your fingers as you stretch toward the sky? Try a few times and see if you can grow even taller.

Face, nose, eyes and mouth

Let us stay with the idea of being that sunflower. The sun is getting stronger now and you can feel it warm on your face. You want to look up towards the sun but the light is so bright you need to close your eyes tight. Take a deep breath in and close your eyes, wrinkle your nose and scrunch your nose and mouth tight. Stretch your face up towards the sun and when you are good and ready, breathe out, relax and let your face go soft and gaze down toward the grass.


Place your hands on your belly and allow your belly to feel soft like a pillow. Stay here and notice how it feels as your belly fills like a balloon with your breath and then softens as you exhale. Next, imagine we want to turn our bellies as hard as a rock and then soft as a pillow. Breathe in and squeeze all the muscles in your belly so when you feel it with your hands it is hard like a rock. Now breathe out and let your belly feel soft again like the pillow. Aaaah, how does that feel? Try again, hard as a rock, soft as a pillow.

Legs and feet

Imagine you are now lying comfortably on a beach. Pretend for a moment that you are curling your toes into the warm sand. Squish them down as deep as they can go into the sand and imagine you can feel the little grains of sand between your toes. As you breathe out, allow your toes to soften and all the little grains of sand to fall away. Try again, this time going even deeper into the sand—breathe in and squeeze those toes and breathe out, relax in the warm sand.

Tune in to Channel 54 on the hospital TV for more guided meditations and progressive muscle relaxation.

If you or your child continue to experience anxiety or stress, it is important that you call and speak with your healthcare provider. If you feel you or your child is in immediate danger, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

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November 2022