This is part three of a five part series exploring simple, easy to implement stress management techniques we can do every day. These are powerful techniques that are easy to learn and they do not take a lot of time or effort. If you do not have time to listen to a guided relaxation CD, or participate in an exercise program or meditate for 30 minutes each day, then these techniques will give you a quick way to begin to combat the effects of stress. No excuses, everyone has time for this stuff so let’s get to work!
One of the most common areas of the body where we tend to hold stress is the muscular system. Stress can cause the muscles to literally contract and tighten, often leading to spasms and serious pain. The majority of people feel this tension in the upper back and neck and they can experience everything from a mild burning sensation to debilitating pain. Often, this is the precursor to tension headaches and it can really disrupt our lives.
The biggest issue with muscular tension issues is to catch the problem before it manifests itself as muscular pain or headaches. The biggest problem with this is that it can be difficult to predict when this will happen because the pain seems to just suddenly appear. However, it is possible to learn how to feel the tension creeping in if we just pay a bit more attention to our bodies. So, let’s take a look at how to literally shake that tension out!
Ok, stand up, give yourself plenty of room and try this experiment. Begin to gently shake your right hand at the wrist. Try to isolate just the wrist as you let the tension begin to shake out. Your fingers should be loose and floppy. Remember, this is a gentle shaking; you are not trying to win a contest here. Do this for about 15 seconds or so and then integrate the forearm up to the elbow as you continue to shake. Again, try to let the tension just wash away as the arm is really loose and floppy. Continue like this for another 15 seconds. Then integrate the whole right arm, all the way up to the shoulder. Everything in the arm is loose and floppy now as you gently shake away any remaining tension. Try not to resist in any way and see just how loose you can make the muscles in your arm. Do this for another 15 seconds and then stop.
Now just let your arm hang down. Look in a mirror and you if you have done this correctly your right arm will be noticeable longer than the left! You may also notice a pulsing or tingling sensation in your fingertips and your hand may even feel warm and flushed. This is because you have helped to rid yourself of the constricting muscular tension that was present in the arm and blood and energy are now flowing more efficiently allowing the arm to feel more relaxed. You have literally shaken the tension out of the arm and in doing this have taken a step toward relaxing your body and managing your stress.
You will want to repeat this on the other side of the body so you have balance. You can also do this in the legs as well, starting with the foot and ankle and working your way up the leg until it is all shaking. When doing the leg shaking it is a good idea to steady yourself on a wall or chair so you don’t loose your balance. You many want to consider a private place to shake out the tension unless you want some strange looks and possible unwanted attention! Of course, if you do this in a bank on a Friday afternoon, you are guaranteed to move right to the front of the line!
Ok, now that the arms and legs are loose, you can move to some gentle shoulder shrugs, neck rotations and any other movements and gentle stretching that you like to do to help loosen the trunk muscles. If you are typing or stuck at a work station all day I recommend doing these exercises about once an hour to keep the tension at bay and you can do them as often as you like throughout your day. Just remember to keep everything gentle, loose and relaxed and obviously stop if you feel any pain or dizziness.
Now you are on your way to helping reduce muscular tension. Let it shake, rattle and roll.
In part four of this article we are going to explore the power of invocation and using mantras to combat stress.
Rodger Ruge is a retired police officer, stress management trainer and author of The Warrior's Mantra, Barricade Books. Rodger is available for stress management seminars and training. Rodger can be reached through his website at http://www.readyforce.net