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Stress Management Stretching

Woman Stretching

When you are under stress, your muscles grow tense and can become sore. Regular stretching can help relieve stress and relax tense muscles.

Stretches to Relieve Stress

Stress can give you headaches, sore shoulders, stiff necks and backaches as your body tenses as a reaction. Learning how to handle the stress you face each day will help you to lead a happier, healthier, less stressful life.

Several areas of the body are prone to tension resulting from stress. Stretching these muscles can help release stress.

Jaw Stretch

Many people grit their teeth when stressed. This can cause jaw tension that can lead to headaches and facial pain and contribute to an overall stressed feeling. To relieve stress in this area, perform a jaw stretch.

Woman doing jaw stretch.
  1. Start in a relaxed position with your mouth closed, your jaw unclenched, and your teeth slightly apart.
  2. Look up towards the ceiling with your eyes as you slowly open your jaw to as wide as you can comfortably open it.
  3. Hold for five to ten seconds without bouncing or moving your jaw before you return to your starting position.
  4. Next, look to the left with your eyes while you shift your lower jaw to the right as far as you can stretch without pain.
  5. Hold for five to ten seconds before returning to the starting position.
  6. Look to the right with your eyes as you shift your lower jaw to the left as far as you can without pain.
  7. Hold for five to ten seconds.
  8. Return to your starting position.

The Crescent Stretch

crescent stretch

An excellent stretching technique for stress is the crescent stretch. This stretch helps release tension from the neck, shoulders, and upper back while elongating your entire torso.

  1. While standing or sitting, raise your hands over your head.
  2. Interlock your fingers and as you exhale move your hands and arms to the right. Make sure to keep your shoulders back.
  3. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds.
  4. Take several deep breathes and inhale as you move your hands back over your head.
  5. Repeat the exercise moving your hands and arms toward the left.
  6. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds.

Stretching the Stress Triangle

When your body is under stress, usually the first area you may feel the tension is the neck and shoulder muscles. This muscle area is often referred to as the stress triangle. This group of muscles reacts to tension by tensing and tightening. To relieve stress in this area, do the following.

stretching stress triangle
  1. Sit in a chair with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor, looking straight ahead. Imagine there is a rope pulling from the top of your spine up through your head to the ceiling.
  2. Take a deep breath.
  3. Exhale and bring your shoulders up as if you were trying to touch your ears, like an exaggerated shoulder shrug.
  4. Hold that position for 15 to 20 seconds breathing normally.
  5. Inhale and relax.
  6. Repeat this as stretching exercise three times.
  7. Take a deep breath.
  8. Exhale and look to the right by turning your head as if you are looking over your shoulder. Turn it as far as possible but still comfortable.
  9. Hold this neck stretch for 15 to 20 seconds, breathing normally.
  10. Inhale and relax as you turn your head back until it is facing fall word.
  11. Repeat the exercise turning your head to the left side.
  12. Take a deep breath.
  13. Exhale and tilt your head as if you were trying to make your right ear touch your right shoulder.
  14. Hold that stretch for 15 to 20 seconds breathing normally.
  15. Exhale and slowly relax, bringing your head back to its upright position.
  16. Repeat the exercise tilting toward the left side.
  17. Inhale.
  18. Exhale and drop your chin to your chest.
  19. Hold that position for 15 to 20 seconds, breathing normally.
  20. Exhale and return to your starting position.

To relieve even more tension, perform these stretches in the shower under running warm water.

Doorway Stretch

Doorway Stretch

Perform this stretch standing in a doorway. It will help release tension in the chest and the front of your shoulders.

  1. Stand in a doorway with your feet slightly apart, shoulders back, and chin up.
  2. Spread your arms so your upper arms cross either side of the doorway across your biceps.
  3. Take a deep breath.
  4. Exhale and lean forward, stretching across the front of your chest.
  5. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds, breathing normally.
  6. Inhale and return to your starting position.

Trapezius and Rhomboid Stretch

This stretch helps you eliminate tension in the deep muscles of the upper back, where tension often collects.

  1. trapezius stretch
    Sit in a chair facing forward with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place the palms of your hands on the back of your head with your fingers interlaced and your upper arms parallel to the floor.
  3. Take a deep breath.
  4. Exhale and press back from the elbows until you feel a stretch in your back and across your chest.
  5. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds, breathing normally.
  6. Inhale and return to the starting position.

Sternocleidomastoid Stretch

This stretch releases tension in your sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle, which runs from below your ear to just below your shoulder blade. It also stretches along the front of your arms.

  1. Sit in a chair with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place your right arm next to you with the palm flat on the seat of the chair and your fingers under your buttocks.
  3. Take a deep breath and turn your head to the left until you feel a stretch through your neck and arm.
  4. Breathing normally, hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds.
  5. Exhale and return to your starting position.
  6. Repeat with your left arm, turning your head to the right.

Body Hug

This stretch releases tension in the subscapular muscles, which are just under your shoulder blades.

body hug
  1. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight, looking straight ahead, arms at your sides.
  2. Take a deep breath and lift your arms straight out to the sides until they are parallel with the floor.
  3. Exhale and bend your elbows, crossing your arms in front of you and grasping the backs of your shoulder blades with the opposite hands in a "bear hug."
  4. Drop your chin to your chest.
  5. Hold this stretch for 15 to 20 seconds, breathing normally.
  6. Exhale and return to your starting position.

Lower Back Stretch

If you sit a lot, spend a great deal of time driving or perform heavy labor, then you may notice tension in your lower back. Perform this stretch to release tension there.

Lower back stretch
  1. Sit on the floor with your back straight looking straight ahead with your right leg straight in front of you and your left knee bent with your left foot flat on the floor.
  2. Take a deep breath.
  3. Exhale and turn your torso to the left, bringing your right arm across the outer part of your left leg until you feel a stretch in your low back and left hip.
  4. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds, breathing normally.
  5. Inhale and return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat on the right side.

Relaxation Response

The next time you're feeling stressed, take a few moments to engage in the exercises above. Chances are, you'll feel refreshed and better able to manage your stressors.

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Stress Management Stretching