TENSION ~~~ the word alone can make you tighten up your neck, shoulders and perhaps even clench your jaw. The thesaurus lists similar words for it: nervousness, anxiety, stress, strain, pressure, rigidity, tightness, stiffness, and even conflict, friction, opposition and dread. Not exactly the energy you’d like pouring through your body!
Tension in your body can cause a plethora of pain – TMJ, headaches, muscle spasms and overall dis-ease. Since our bodies are one unit, neck and shoulder tension affects the full body. While tension is a problem that will rear its ugly head regularly in our lives, we don’t have to resign ourselves to sitting back and taking it! Below I’ve listed an acronym that will help you manage this little beastie!
T ~ Take a moment to regroup – breathe slowly (in through the nose for five, hold for five, out for five through your mouth as if you’re blowing out birthday candles).
E ~ Exercise – from stretches to cardio to resistance training, exercise will help strengthen your muscles and body.
N ~ Nutrition – cut back on caffeine, sugars, and processed foods.
S ~ Sit up straight – posture is crucial! It elongates and disperses the muscle work of holding up the body against gravity.
I ~ Investigate the best method of alleviating stress for yourself – from deep breathing to a chiropractic visit, from aromatherapy to an acupuncturist or massage therapist, find out what works best for you.
O ~ Options - . plan a method of relaxation if it is a recurring situation so that you won’t be caught short if the situation occurs again – forewarned is forearmed! Get a massage, take a walk, take a hot shower or bath, lying down for a few minutes with a cool cloth on your head or wrapped around your neck, grab a soothing cup of warm herbal tea, pray/meditate, turn on your favorite comedy and LAUGH, and remember always to focus on the positive blessings in your life and cultivate an attitude of gratitude – it will do wonders for melting away your muscle moops (yes, moops, it’s a word my dear friend Marjory taught me for when things aren’t going well – MOOP!)
N ~ Note what is causing the tension – keep a journal so that you can identify situations that cause tension in your life, and where the pain is in your body. This may help you discover ways to regular or alleviate those stressors to some extent in the future.
I’ve also listed some exercises that are recommended for stress. Important note: These exercises are for informational purposes only. You use them at your own risk. I am not a physician, but are merely passing on tried methods of exercising that have worked for others. Please consult your physician before doing any kind of exercises.
One exercise I recommend and do personally is what I call roll and pack. Roll your shoulders up to your ears in a shrugging motion, then press them back and down. Imagine you are taking your shoulder blades and trying to slide them down your back into your jeans pockets. Take a deep breath in as you roll upward, and release it as those babies slide down your back.
So… sit back, take a deep breath and exercise your stress-bustin’ options. We might not be able to eradicate tension, but we can control/manage and tame it!
Coach Linda Bush
Rolling the neck exercise: This exercise will loosen tension in the neck and shoulders as well as stretching the spine and adding flexibility and suppleness to the neck and upper shoulder area.
1. Sit with straight back on a chair or stand upright with your feet a little apart and knees a little bent. Relax your shoulders in a way that you feel they are sinking down into the ground. Relax your body, keeping tummy in and back straight.
2. Stretch your neck upward carefully and slowly while you sink your chin until it touches your chest - letting your jaw relax and hang loosely.
3. Relax your shoulders at the same time try to hold them a little backward.
4. Now turn your head carefully and slowly toward the right, keeping your chin down - until your nose is parallel with the middle of your right shoulder.
5. While you hold this position - look over your shoulder as far as you can while you try to stretch your neck even more. Hold this position while you count to 5.
6. Keeping your neck stretched as much as possible - now turn your head back to the center position where you started off as explained in #4.
7. Now turn your head in the same way over to the left in a smooth, careful and slow movement - once your nose is parallel with the middle of your left shoulder, look over your shoulder as far as you can while you stretch your neck even more. Hold this position while you count to 5.
8. Keeping your neck stretched - turn your head/chin back to the center position.
Dag 1: 2 times - Dag 2: 3 times - Dag 3: 4 times - Dag 4: 5 times
Remember not to make sudden, abrupt movements while doing this exercise as it can be damaging to your neck. Also it’s important that your shoulders and chin are relaxed. If you’re standing for this exercise remember not to lock your knees, but do keep your tummy in and your back straight.
Shrugs: Inhale and bring your shoulders up to your neck as high as possible as though shrugging; hold for 10 counts. Exhale as you relax your shoulders back down and repeat 10 times.
Flexion: Inhale then exhale as you slowly lower your chin down to your chest until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your neck. Take a few deep breaths before raising your head as you breathe in; repeat 10 times.
Lateral Flexion: Inhale then exhale as you slowly lower your left ear to your left shoulder as far as it will go; you should feel a gentle stretch in the top of your right shoulder and right side of your neck; be sure to bring your head to your shoulders rather than raising the shoulders to the head. Enjoy a few slow, deep breaths and raise your head back up on an inhale; repeat on the other side for a total of five to 10 times per side. You can intensify this stretch by very gently pulling your head farther down to your shoulder using the hand on the same side your head is moving toward.
Neck Roll: Inhale then exhale as you slowly lower your chin to your chest; take another breath and slowly roll your chin up to your left shoulder on an exhale; inhale again and roll your chin across your chest and up to your right shoulder as you exhale; repeat 10 times.
Shoulder Roll: Inhale and raise your shoulders up to your ears, moving them back and down then forward and up in a continuous circular motion as you exhale; keep moving for 10 counts then move your shoulders in the opposite direction for 10 counts.