Awareness is Key to Eliminate Stress-Induced Tension
by Cassidy Cooney, DPT
AzOPT Goodyear Physical Therapist

Have you been stressed lately? Honestly, I know that I have. These past months have been epic in regard to changes in lifestyle and the face of society in general, and whether we are aware of it or not, stress is innate to such circumstances.

Often, we can interchange the word stressed with tense. Tension can also be considered a natural manifestation of our mental/psychological stress. Some experts believe stress is intended to drive an action in our lives, like a strong cup of coffee on a Monday morning. It gives us a boost of energy to create a change to the stress stimulus. However, today we are limited in our capacity to harness our stress to create action and effectively combat the source.

When we are unable to utilize our stress-induced energy to create a positive change, we are left needing to somehow drain this storage of energy. This leads to a subconscious state of constantly keeping our muscles excessively tight as the body’s best strategy to use this energy potential.

Acknowledging stress and muscle tension as actively occurring in our lives is the first step towards improving our overall wellness in the face of current adversities. After acknowledgment, AWARENESS is the key to having somewhat of a grip on the problem.

So, have you been tense lately? Do you have awareness of your muscle tension? Are you tense now? Let’s perform an activity aimed at exploring your natural ability to perceive and be aware of your body and muscle tension.

This activity is ideally performed during a time when you are free from distractions. Book mark this blog here and return when you are able to PRIORITIZE ten minutes to focus on your body. No rushing. No thinking about the dirty laundry or dishes. Just you and your body.

If you are not sitting down, please take a seat. Close your eyes and arrive in the present moment; eliminate all other thinking. Focus on peace from everything you’ve experienced yesterday and today, and all that will come later today and tomorrow.

There is no action necessary to any of these questions, just please simply become aware of how you are doing, and how it feels. Allow yourself a couple minutes of self-awareness in regards to each bullet point:

How are you breathing? Do you feel you are breathing quickly or slowly? Do you feel more motion in your chest, or in your belly? Does it feel comfortable or restricted?

How does your neck feel? Are you facing straight ahead? Maybe you are looking slightly to the left or to the right? Are you bent to one side or the other?

Where are your shoulders? Do you feel you have equal space on both sides between your ears and shoulder blades? Maybe one side has less, and your shoulder is higher on one side compared to the other? Do you feel any tension present? Can you relax them both to be equal?

How do your arms feel? Are you placing one or both on the desk or arm rest? Are you pushing your arms into the surface, or gently resting? Or are you sitting tall without arm support? Is your elbow in a relaxed position, or held in a bent position?

How is your trunk positioned? Do you feel your chest is facing upward or downward? Do you feel your shoulders forward and closing off your chest, or do you feel your shoulders pulling backward and opening your chest? Do you feel your trunk is leaning to one side or the other?

How is the weight distributed on your bottom? Do you feel more pressure on one side of your bottom compared to the other? Do you find more weight is on the front of your bottom, or more towards the backside?

Does anything you have come to notice feel off? Do you feel there are areas of your body you are holding tight with muscle tension? Can you focus on the tension, and allow it to relax?

Is there any way you can sit like you normally do, but with more ease? Consider a tense area as being used with 100% effort, can you allow it to function at 25%? Can you allow yourself to work less so to sit? Allow your muscles to relax, but perform their natural role of maintaining upright posture.

Sometimes it can be discouraging to attempt to improve your body awareness and make changes to how much tension you use during your daily life. Tension develops subconsciously and requires an attention and awareness to notice and fix it. If you feel there is excess strain in any region of your body, it is beneficial to become aware and work towards resolving it in order to improve the quality and efficiency with which you use our body.

If this activity interested you, try participating in the free awareness through movement lessons offered on in order to further explore the efficiency with which you use your body.

If you feel that you noticed an area that has been limiting you from being at your optimal level of well-being, an AzOPT physical therapist is able to help you on your journey to reaching your goal to Live Better.