Quests: Managing Stress by Breathing and Tension Exercises

One of the reasons I also picked up the workbook Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence was I noticed they had a whole section on controlling muscle tension. My entire life I have had muscle tension in my neck, shoulders, and shoulder blades. I also have lately noticed the tension in my triceps and jaw. I always thought that this was normal until I finally brought it up to someone and they just looked at me in horror and said, “That is not normal.” Tension and stress is definitely something I want to work on.

The workbook discusses several reasons why it’s important to keep your tension level low including:

1. In order to decrease your tension you need to be able to detect what your tension is

2. It’s easier to relax and bring your tension down if it is already low

3. High levels of tension impair your ability to think clearly

4. Bad habits are more likely to be activated when your tension is high

5. Chronic tension and hyper arousal can weaken you physically, including higher resting heart rates and blood pressure

6. Higher muscle tension levels make you more vulnerable to losing control, including panicking, losing your temper or breaking down

Walking through the exercises really helps to bring the tension down in my body.

My hero also uncovered the Level 2 Secret File in SuperBetter about how breathing can increase your heart rate variability (HRV), which is related to emotional arousal.

The tension exercises in the workbook has you score your level of tension from 0-100. My favorite exercise from the workbook is to do a body scan and walk through each of the major muscle groups where you experience the most tension and tense them then let go of the tension until you can bring your tension levels down to 30 or lower. You can do this at any time of the day or anywhere really.

Go ahead and try the body scan:

1. What’s your tension score (0 being the calmest and 100 being the worst you’ve ever been)?

2. Where do you feel the most tension?

3. Take a deep breath for 5-10 seconds, then breath out and breath normally for 5-10 seconds.

4. Over tense the muscles with the most tension and then let it go. For example…

  • “Close your eyes real tight. Feel the tension in, around and behind your eyes and then relax your eyes, keeping your eyes gently closed.”

  • “Straighten your arms in front of you, reaching across the room, and tense your triceps … and then relax your arms.”
  •  “Clench your jaws and study the tension throughout your jaws… and relax your jaws and let your lips part slightly.”
  • “Shrug your shoulders up. Now bring your shoulders back so you feel the tension in your shoulders and back … and relax.”

 5. What’s your tension score now?

Repeat until your tension score is lower than 30.

Now to try to remember to do this and breath more often. I also find rolling out on a foam roller helps big time! But, that’s probably because I over do it exercising as I talked about in my previous post on Battles Against the Bad Guys. 😉

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