Managing Stress: My Body Does What When Stressed?
Ok- so we can’t always control the stress in our lives but we can try control what our body does in reaction to stress. Stress doesn’t always have to be a bad thing either. We can have excitement stress like when we are getting ready for a party or a big event in our lives. Still our body can get in the habit of tensing in a way that can create pain such as headaches, neck pain and jaw pain.
Here is an awareness check list to help identify our tensing habits and correct them:
Is it fast, shallow or are we just holding our breath? Correct by slowing your breathing so you can comfortably inhale letting your stomach and ribs expand. Especially focus on the exhale phase. Allow your ribs to drop and exhale completely with a rest at the end of this phase.
Neck and Shoulders:
Are your shoulders up to your ears? Can’t get them to come down no matter how hard you try? Correct by feeling them rise as you inhale but focus on how they soften and go down as you exhale. You can gently reach down with your hands or elbows to trick your neck muscles into relaxing as you exhale.
Are you clenching or are your teeth touching? Correct by practicing letting your cheeks sag. Teeth should be apart and let your tongue “float up” by saying the letter “N” or think “ahh.”
Frowning or eyes tense? Eyebrows lifted? Correct by closing your eyes or look downward with your eyes. Feel how your eyebrows soften and melt downward as if they could slide down your face. Practice keeping your eyebrows softened and relaxed while looking forward with your eyes. Sometimes this feels so foreign to people that they feel like they look angry. Practice often to “learn” the new feel of being relaxed.
Are you slouching? Shoulders rounded forward and rigid with your movements? Correct it by imaging a string on the top of your head that is gently pulling you up taller. As your neck is elongated up allow your shoulder to fall down and back. Relax and soften the tension in the low back slightly and breathe.
The most efficient way to change a habit is to break into that habit briefly but very often. Check these areas several times during the day to retrain your body.
Feel free to contact me with any questions or feedback!