Guidelines for Progressive Muscle Relaxation
It’s best to do it twice a day if you can, preferably morning and night, especially for the first week to ten days. Once a day is sufficient, but it will take longer for you to see the benefit of PMR.
You need a quiet location with no distractions and twenty to thirty minutes to do Progressive Muscle Relaxation. To start, it’s going to take at least twenty minutes. Once you are proficient, you can complete the exercise in ten minutes.
It’s best if you do it at a regular time, and on an empty stomach. You need to find a comfortable body position using a sofa, a bed, a recliner, or the floor. Loosen any tight clothing. Try not to worry or think about anything else. You want to have a more passive, detached attitude of just being there and letting it happen. You have to do the work, but you need to be unemotionally involved. You want to be more of an observer than concerned or thoughtful about the exercise. Observing the way your muscles feel is an important part of PMR.
To do a PMR session, start with a few deep breaths. Then you tense a muscle group for seven to ten seconds. You don’t want to strain, but you want to hold it really tight. You concentrate on the muscle. Feel and visualize the tension, then abruptly relax that muscle. Keep it relaxed it for fifteen to twenty seconds, and feel the limpness and lack of tension. Note the difference between tense and relaxed. Then, repeat this for each muscle group in your body that you’re going to use for this exercise.
Here’s a handy guide.
- Take three slow, deep abdominal breaths. Imagine the tension going away as you breathe out.
- For each of the following muscle groups, tighten the muscle for seven to ten seconds and focus your attention on how the muscle feels when it is tight. Then relax the muscle for fifteen to twenty seconds and feel the limpness of the muscle. Pay attention to how the muscle feels tight vs. limp to grow the neuron connections to willfully relax these muscles.
– Biceps (fists to shoulders)
– Triceps (extend arms straight out sideways)
– Forehead (raise your eyebrows)
– Around eyes (eyes shut)
– Jaw open (wide open)
– Neck (head back)
– Shoulders (shoulders toward ears)
– Shoulder blades (try to touch them together)
– Chest (deep chest breath, release this one slowly)
– Stomach (suck stomach in)
– Lower back (arch back – but not if it is painful)
– Buttocks (pull them together)
– Thighs (tighten all muscles)
– Calf muscles (pull toes up)
– Feet (curl toes downward)
– Scan your body for tension. Repeat any tight muscle groups.
- Imagine a wave of relaxation slowly going through your body from head to toe.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a powerful treatment for misophonia, and that’s why you should be doing it. The main benefit for misophonia is that it lets you relax your muscles on demand, which can only be done after you have developed the skill of relaxing your muscles. It takes about two weeks to learn the skill of relaxing your muscles, and even then, you will get better with practice. Instead of PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation), maybe you should think of it as MRP (Muscle Relaxation Practice). That is what you are doing each day: practicing to relax your muscles. You are making the neuron connections in the brain so that when you say, “relax,” you can actually relax your muscles. The ability to do this doesn’t just happen; it’s an acquired skill. It is not a concept. So you have to plan on doing MRP at least fourteen times to make sure that you have started to develop the actual skill. Then when you’re triggered you want to just relax.
Remember, it also improves your overall general well-being, and that reduces the impact and the severity of your misophonia. Another great benefit is that once you’ve learned this technique, you can also use it when you know you’re going to be triggered. This is especially beneficial if you have an initial physical misophonia reflex that is a skeletal muscle. If you relax those muscles before being triggered, then it will help to change your little lizard brain and reduce your misophonia. There is at least one case of a person who eliminated his misophonia this way.
Go to misophoniatreatment.com and look up the Progressive Muscle Relaxation guided audios. There’s one that is twenty-five minutes long. It’s from Dartmouth University, and I suggest that you try that one at least one time. There is another one by Arizona State University that is fifteen minutes long, and you should try that at least once. Use one of the guided audios for the first week, because they emphasize the mental thoughts of focusing on the tightness and focusing on the relaxation that is critical to developing the neuron connections so you can relax your muscles on demand. If you’re triggered by the voice on the PMR guided audio, you can use the script for PMR that is on the same web page and one of the last two audio files. These only have timing chimes – no words. There are also shorter audio files. Once you know what you are doing, you may use these. Practice muscle relaxation twice a day if you want to see the improvement quickly, but practice it at least once every day.
[i] Bourne, 2011 is the primary source for PMR information in this section.