10 Minute Tense and Release:

During this exercise you will be focusing on one muscle at a time, squeezing and contracting it for about 10 seconds and then totally letting go of the muscle. Let’s practice the two steps before we begin.

Step 1: Tense

First, focus on one muscle group at a time (for example, your left hand). Next, take a slow, deep breath and squeeze those muscles until you feel warmth and some pressure for about 5–7 seconds. It is important to really feel the tension in the muscles, which may even be a bit uncomfortable or cause a little shaking. So for the left hand, you would be making a tight fist.

It is easy to accidentally tense surrounding muscles (for example, the shoulder or arm), so try to tense only the muscles in your hand and not the muscles in the other parts of your body. Isolating one muscle group at a time gets easier with practice.

Take care not to hurt yourself while tensing your muscles. You should never feel intense or shooting pain while completing this exercise. Make the muscle tension deliberate, yet gentle.

Note: If you have problems with pulled muscles, broken bones, or any medical issues that would hinder physical activity, consult your doctor first. You could also consider skipping the tensing part and only doing the release and relax instructions for each muscle group.

Try your best to isolate the various muscle groups while practicing (don’t tense your shoulders if you are trying to squeeze your hands, for example). Tense only one muscle group at a time. You will get better at this with practice.


Step 2: Release

This step involves relaxing the tensed muscles. So, after tensing your muscles for about 5–7 seconds, let all the tightness flow out of the tensed muscles. Exhale as you do this step. Feel the muscles becoming loose and limp as the tension flows out. It can help to imagine that your muscles are like cooked spaghetti noodles and let them be as loose as possible.

It is important to focus on and notice the difference between the tension and relaxation. This is the most important part of the whole exercise, as it will help you remember how to feel relaxed!

Remain in this relaxed state for about 10 seconds, and then move on to the next muscle group. Repeat the tense-relax steps. After completing all of the muscle groups, take some time to enjoy the deep state of relaxation.

Okay, now that you know what to do, try it for real. Get ready to feel really chilled out and relaxed!

Before starting this exercise, find a quiet and comfortable place where you won’t be distracted. Turn your cell phone off and close the door. You can either lie down or recline in a comfortable chair where your head is supported. Give yourself permission to take 10 minutes out of your day to take care of you. Everything else can wait.

Print the script. You can record it yourself or ask someone else to read it out for you (Mom or Dad, or someone else you trust).

Next: Visualizations