An Effective Skill to Immediately Release Tension

An Effective Skill to Immediately Release Tension

By Joy Walsh, LCSW

”Your personal energy is your most important asset!  Be careful of it! Spend it wisely!” ~ Dr. Edmund Jacobson, You Must Relax

How stressed are you right now? Even if you answered “not at all” to this question, you might be surprised to find out just how much tension you are currently holding in your body.  This translates to unnecessary energy being used and without regularly releasing this tension you can easily develop symptoms of chronic stress.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a technique I have been recommending to clients, and also personally using, for years.  Developed by Dr. Edmund Jacobson in the late 1920’s, he found that by purposely introducing tension to your body and then relaxing you can easily compare the two states.  By monitoring your tension you can enhance your awareness of when you are using unnecessary energy and alternatively conserve your energy and spend it more wisely.  Some of the benefits of this includes better posture, breathing more fuller, enhanced sleep, lower blood pressure, reduced likelihood of seizures, and long term reduction of physical and mental stress.

How to use Progressive Muscle Relaxation

When you are beginning, it might be easiest to listen to a guided script.  This can easily be found with a quick YouTube search, or click HERE for the video I put together for you (less than 10 minutes!).   The exercise will consist of suggestions for you to pay attention to different areas of your body, most likely starting with your toes and working your way up to your forehead.  You will gently introduce tension to each of these areas and then immediately relax and take notice of the differences.

As a beginner, it is not uncommon to unknowingly tense muscles again throughout the exercise so make sure to go back at the end for a quick scan to loosen them one more time.  Daily practice will help you tailor your PMR exercises to meet your needs, and eventually you can graduate to using body scans throughout the day to maintain your relaxed state.  Try some of these settings to get started with your new skill:

  • Before bedtime
  • When you first wake up
  • Break time at work
  • After a workout
  • Waiting anywhere


Joy Walsh, LCSW, is a therapist at The Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center.  The Lighthouse, located in Schaumburg, IL, is the first emotional wellness center to be established in the Midwest over 14 years ago, and is dedicated to the growth and development of healthy relationships. Our counseling and psychiatry services are provided for individuals, couples and families, ages 6 on up. Group therapy and community education are tailored to meet our clients’ and community’s needs. Our staff is highly skilled in the newest and most innovative approaches to make sure treatment is individualized for each client. To learn more about our Center, visit us at