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Cancer Health Center

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Stress Management When You Have Cancer - Topic Overview


You can use a prerecorded audiotape to help you go through all the muscle groups, or you can do it by just tensing and relaxing each muscle group.

Choose a place where you can lie down on your back and stretch out comfortably, such as a carpeted floor. Tense each muscle group for 4 to 10 seconds (hard but not to the point of cramping), then give yourself 10 to 20 seconds to release it and relax.

Now and then take the time to review all the muscle groups. Then relax each one a little more each time you use this method.

How to tense each muscle group

  • Hands: Clench them.
  • Wrists and forearms: Extend them and bend the hands back at the wrist.
  • Biceps and upper arms: Clench your hands into fists, bend your arms at the elbows, and flex your biceps.
  • Shoulders: Shrug them.
  • Forehead: Wrinkle it into a deep frown.
  • Around the eyes and bridge of the nose: Close your eyes as tightly as possible. (Remove contact lenses before beginning the exercise.)
  • Cheeks and jaws: Grin from ear to ear.
  • Around the mouth: Press your lips together tightly. (Check your facial area for tension.)
  • Back of the neck: Press your head back hard.
  • Front of the neck: Touch your chin to your chest. (Check your neck and head for tension.)
  • Chest: Take a deep breath and hold it, then exhale.
  • Back: Arch your back up and away from the floor.
  • Stomach: Suck it into a tight knot. (Check your chest and stomach for tension.)
  • Hips and buttocks: Press the buttocks together tightly.
  • Thighs: Clench them hard.
  • Lower legs: Point your toes toward your face, as if trying to bring the toes up to touch your head. Then point your toes away and curl them downward at the same time. (Check the area from your waist down for tension.)

When you are finished, return to alertness by counting backwards from 5 to 1.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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