Author: Casey Shivers | Director of Clinical Programming
Many of us carry tension in our bodies, especially when under stress. When feeling stressed, people will often will tighten their jaws, neck, and/or their shoulders without even realizing they are doing it.
Every time we tense these muscles, we are sending messages to the brain that reinforces unwanted mental and physical tension. These messages only create a negative feedback loop that in turn causes more stress and more tension.
Be more mindful of your body to prevent stress.
Mindfulness practices, such as taking mental scans of your body, helps sharpen awareness to the way we compensate tension both mentally and physically. Body scans also create space to routinely practice releasing this kind of unwanted stress and tension.
How to be mindful of stress and tension: The Body Scan technique
Here is a quick guide for body scanning to allow you to increase your own awareness of where and how (maybe even why) your tension occurs:
- Feel your feet on the ground, and your seat supported by the chair and the earth.
- Relax your shoulders, your jaw, your gaze.
- Breathe deeply.
- Notice that this may be the first time that you’ve actually noticed your breathing all day.
- Starting at your head or feet, take an inch-by-inch inventory of how your body is doing RIGHT NOW at this moment.
- Notice WITHOUT JUDGEMENT the ways in which it may or may not adjust itself.
- What is tense? Is it useful? If not, try relaxing that body part or thought with your next exhale.
- Notice something new. Let it go, and repeat for any length of time that works for you.
Even just taking a minute during your day to complete a body scan will not only relax you during a stressful situation, but also help you better understand your body and mind to prevent tension in the future.