Muscular Relaxation

Muscular relaxation exercises and deep breathing are two common techniques to help people to relax and combat symptoms of anxiety. They may also help to ease symptoms of depression.

Some people relax with sport, exercise, listening to music, watching TV, reading a book, etc. However, some people find it helpful to follow specific relaxation exercises. 

Muscular relaxing exercises and deep breathing exercises are particularly useful to combat the two common physical symptoms of anxiety – muscular tension and over-breathing.

Like anything else, you need to practise these at first. However, hopefully, you can then use them in everyday life whenever you feel tense or anxious.

Find a quiet warm place where you won’t be disturbed. Choose a time of day when you do not feel pressured to do anything else. Lie down on your back, or sit in a  well-supported chair if you are not able to lie down. Try to get comfortable and close your eyes. Perhaps lie on a firm bed of some cushions. The routine then is to work on each of your muscle groups. With each group of muscles, firstly tense the muscles as much as you can, then relax them fully.

Breathe in when you tense the muscles, and breathe out when you relax.

To start

Concentrate on your breathing for a few minutes. Breathe slowly and calmly. Each time you breathe out say words to yourself such as ‘peace’ or ‘relax’. Then start the muscle exercises, working around the different muscle groups in your body.


Clench one hand tightly for a few seconds as you breathe in. You should feel your forearm muscles tense; then relax as you breathe out. Repeat with the other hand.


Bend an elbow and tense all the muscles in the arm for a few seconds as you breathe in; then relax as you breathe out. Repeat the same with the other arm.


Press your head back as hard as is comfortable and roll it slowly from side to side; then relax.


Try to frown and lower your eyebrows as hard as you can for a few seconds; then relax. Then raise your eyebrows (as if you were startled) as hard as you can; then relax. Then clench your jaw for a few seconds; then relax.


Take a deep breath and hold it for a few seconds; then relax and go back to normal breathing.


Tense the stomach muscles as tightly as possible; then relax.


Squeeze the buttocks together as much as possible; then relax.


With your legs flat on the floor, bend your feet and toes towards your face as hard as you can; then relax. Then bend them away from your face for a few seconds; then relax.


The whole routine 3-4 times. Each time you relax a group of muscles, note the difference of how they feel when relaxed compared to when they are tense. Some people find it eases their general level of ‘tension’ if they get into a daily routine of doing these exercises.