Claire is a virtual assistant, designed by the Suicide Call Back Service.
Using artificial intelligence, the virtual assistant can support you in getting the help you need as quickly as possible, finding information and self-help resources that can help you address your needs.
First launched on the Suicide Call Back Service website at 1pm, 26 March 2019, Claire was created with over 60 years of knowledge and experience in mental health pre-loaded, and continues to learn and help people every day.
People come to the Suicide Call Back Service website for lots of different information. One thing Claire can help with is, learning to relax. The virtual assistant can run you through a guided relaxation program. A guided relaxation program can help manage stress, relax and improve mental function. Why not let Claire take you through her progressive muscle relaxation program?
Progressive muscle relaxation program
To start, find a quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted. You can do this in a chair or lying on the bed, whichever you prefer. By alternately tensing and relaxing specific groups of muscles – tensing each group for 10 seconds, then relaxing for 10 or 15 seconds – you can relax your entire body. Concentrate on how your muscles feel, specifically the contrast between tension and relaxation. The idea is that in time, you will be able to recognise tension in any specific muscle and be able to reduce that tension. Remember to keep taking deep breaths and stay nice and calm throughout the whole ‘tense-relax’ sequences.
The following activity takes roughly 10 minutes and is great to run through in a single session.
Before you begin:
- Try not to tense muscles other than the specific group at each step
- Try not to hold your breath, grit your teeth, or squint
- If you have pain or discomfort in an area, skip it, or do just a little bit, as much as your body allows.
Once sitting or lying down comfortably…
- Start with your hands. Begin by clenching your fists into balls, holding for 10 seconds, and then releasing and relaxing for 10 seconds. Take a few seconds to notice the contrast between tension and relaxation. As you breathe in and out, imagine all that tension flowing out of your hands.
- Now extend your fingers, span your hands out for 10 seconds, and then relax your hands for 10 seconds. Notice the contrast between tension and relaxation. Notice the sensations, or temperature changes.
- Moving to your wrists and forearms, bend your wrists back towards your forearms, and tense. Again hold for 10 seconds, and then relax for 10 seconds.
- Next, the biceps. Tense your biceps like you’re making a muscle and showing off at the gym. Hold that pose for 10 seconds, and then release and relax for 10 seconds. Drop your arms down, really let go.
Remember to keep taking deep breaths and stay nice and calm throughout the whole ‘tense-relax’ sequences.
- Next, your shoulders. Pull them up towards your ears. Hold it for 10 seconds, before releasing. Be careful with this one – did you notice the tension. We hold so much tension in this part of our body. Next push the shoulders forward, hunch them over for 10 seconds, and then release. Imagine all the tension flowing out and notice the contrast in this area of your body.
- Next we come to the neck. With your shoulders straight and relaxed, turn your head slowly to the right, as far as you can. Hold it for 10 seconds, then relax for 10 seconds before repeating by turning your head to the left for 10 seconds and relaxing for 10 seconds. Again, take a moment to notice the contrast.
- Now we move to the face. The mouth is another area where we can hold a lot of tightness, especially the jaw, without realising it. Start by opening your mouth as far as possible. Hold it for 10 seconds and then relax. Now, bring your lips together and purse as tightly as possible, and hold it for a further 10 seconds, before relaxing and letting your mouth return to a gentle resting position.
- Now we come to our eyes, and brow. First, frown and furrow your brow for 10 seconds before relaxing. Secondly, close your eyes as tightly possible, so you’re squinting, for 10 seconds. Then release. Make sure you completely relax your eyes, forehead, and nose. It can be a bit tricky.
- Working our way down the body, we next come to the chest. Take as deep a breath as possible – before letting it all out. Then breathe normally for 15 seconds. On the last breath, let all the air in your lungs out. Then breathe normally for another 15 seconds.
- Next up is the back. Be careful with this exercise. With your shoulders resting on the back of the chair or floor, push your body forward so that your back is arched and hold for 10 seconds. Then relax.
Be sure to notice the different sensations and contrast between tensing and relaxing each exercise.
- Now to your stomach. Pull in your stomach as far as possible, as if you’re trying to have your belly button reach your spine. Hold for 10 seconds – then relax completely. Then push out the stomach, or tense it for 10 seconds, and then relax.
- Now to your buttocks muscles. Tense the butt tightly and raise your pelvis slightly off the chair or bed and hold for 10 seconds. Then release.
- Now we’ll work our way down to your thighs. Extend your legs and raise them just gently off the floor. Hold for 10 seconds, and then relax. Notice the contrast and changes.
- Moving down now to your calves and feet. Point your toes, without raising your legs, and hold it for 10 seconds, before relaxing. Now point your feet up as far as possible. If you get cramps or feel them coming on, shake them loose. Hold this pose for 10 seconds and then release. Did you notice the pull and tension?
- Finally, we finish with the toes. If you’re sitting down – with your legs relaxed, dig your toes into the floor. If you’re lying down, bend your knees first, then push your toes into the floor. Again, hold for 10 seconds and then release. Next, bend your toes up as far as possible and hold for 10 seconds, before letting go.
Finally just take a moment to breathe in and out and notice how your body feels. Compared to the start, you should now feel more relaxed with your muscles having exhausted some of the tension that was being held in them.
A great thing about learning this relaxation technique, is that it’s free for you to use, and do anywhere! Once mastered, being able to relax is a useful stress management tool to have in your locker.
Please note, whilst Claire does her best to provide you with resources relevant to your needs, conversations are not monitored by our counsellors. To speak to a counsellor directly, please call 1300 659 467, and remember, if there is an emergency, call 000 immediately.
If you need to talk to a counsellor, call Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.
If it is an emergency, dial 000.
The Suicide Call Back Service recommends using Chrome, Safari, Firefox or Edge desktop browsers for best performance with the virtual assistant.