Where do you hold stress?

Is it in your belly? Your head? Your neck and shoulders?

I tend to hold stress and tension in my belly – almost like a punched muscle.

When you’re stressed you might notice you hunch your shoulders up toward your ears, giving you pain in your neck or upper back.

You might tighten your jaw, grind your teeth, or feel weepy.

The most important thing is that you notice. If you don’t know you are stressed, it’s hard to release it.

Try the activity below – Progressive Muscle Relaxation - to notice and release any stress held in your body. For best results, please:

  • Keep exhales longer than inhales, slow and deep
  • Scanning is nothing more than going inward and noticing
  • When you get to tensing and releasing, repeat each area or muscle group 2 or 3 times.
  • Take cleansing breaths after each muscle group, before moving to the next.
  • Read it through once and then try it from memory – aim for feeling better, not following steps to perfection.

If you’d rather hear this instead of reading, download Stress Release Progressive Muscle Relaxation.

Here we go:

  1. Get comfortably seated.
    Sit in a comfortable chair, feet resting gently on the floor.
    Sit up straight without rigidity and take a few slow deep breaths, with exhales longer than inhales.
  2. When you’re ready, scan your body slowly.
    Close your eyes slightly, so your lids are just touching.
    Starting at the top of your head and moving slowly and methodically down to your feet, just notice how your body feels.
    Do you notice any areas of pain, prickling, cold, heat? Pressure, constriction, or anything at all?
  3. Now pause your scanning and take a few deep breaths again. In and out, with exhales longer than inhales.
  4. Next, tense and release muscles, slowly and methodically working feet to head, and breathing slowly throughout, with deep cleansing breaths after each area of your body.
  5. Beginning with your feet, scrunch them up, toes either splayed out or curled in, ankles rigid and tight.
  6. And release, relax, and visualize warm limp muscles. Repeat at least one more time – tensing and clenching, then releasing.
  7. Deep cleansing breaths - again with long exhales.
  8. Now, moving up - calves and shins, knees, thighs and glutes. Slowly and with intention, one muscle group or body area at a time, tensing and then releasing, at least two times.
  9. Breathing warmth and love in, and pressure, stress, and tension out.
  10. Moving up, to your belly and chest, lower back, spine, and upper back.
  11. Cleansing breaths and then repeat again.
  12. Now shoulders and arms, elbows, wrists, and hands. Repeat each area, with calm breaths in between.
  13. Work up to your neck, jaw, forehead, and crown, breathing deeply between each area of your body – repeating again, each area.
  14. With your eyes still gently closed, notice the ground under your feet, your back against the chair, and the sounds in the room. Come peacefully back to awareness of your surroundings and open your eyes when you’re ready.

If you try this exercise daily - a few days in a row, you’ll start to feel like jello or floaty air when you just think of doing it. If you haven’t the time, just try it whenever you like. Once again, if you’d rather listen instead, download the audio file.

And, as always, I'm here.

If you need more than a relaxation activity, email me to schedule a free telephone consultation, where we can talk about how to reduce stress. You can also reach me in my West Seattle counseling office at Balance InSight, 206-790-7270.

Your turn: where do you hold stress? Post below; I'd love to know.