Every morning I sit down on my meditation cushion and get into a comfortable position. I do a progressive muscle relaxation starting at the top of my head. I release the muscles in my face, let my eyes rest gently in the sockets, and allow my jaw to fall slightly open. Then, I get to my shoulders and realize they are practically attached to my ears. I let them release down and back, and continue with the relaxation. By the time I’ve reached my toes, my shoulders are right back up hugging my ears.
Like many people, I carry all my tension in my shoulders. This causes pain to radiate down my neck and across my upper back. It tends to happen to people prone to anxiety and worry; those of us who literally carry the world on our shoulders.
So how do you let go?
Here are 7 things you can do to ease the tension:
1. Do shoulder stretches in the morning.
When you hold all your tension in your shoulders, the muscles become constricted and tight. It's important to give them room to breathe. Every morning interlace your fingers behind your back and then do a forward fold. Another easy stretch is to bring one ear down toward your shoulder and hold; you can stop there or gentle guide your head down with your hand. This stretches out the neck and the shoulder. Also, do some quick shoulder rolls, forward and back, to shake out the cobwebs.
2. Let out three big sighs.
During the day, when you notice your shoulders creeping up, hunch them all the way up to your ears, and the let you a loud sigh as you drop them down. Repeat three times. This is also a great instant stress buster.
3. Set up a reminder.
For the technology savvy among us, set up a recurring silent alarm on your fitness tracker to vibrate every few hours to remind you to fix your posture. For those who prefer not to use technology, give yourself a verbal cue, such as every time you’re stopped at a stoplight, adjust your shoulders.
4. Get a massage.
Perpetual shoulder tension could be a nagging muscle issue. If significant pain is involved and doesn't lessen with stretching and ice, massage therapists may be able to work out knots in your shoulders for longer term relief.
5. Get warm.
When we're cold we tend to restrict our shoulders and close in our ourselves to stay warm. When you’re feeling cold, take a hot bath or cozy up under a heated blanket. This will help your shoulder relax and prevent future pain.
6. Watch your posture at your computer and when on your phone.
We're becoming a nation of people constant looking down, either at a phone or a laptop. Angle your devices, so that you are looking square at the screen. Take a break every half hour for the sake of your eyes and spine.
7. Talk it out.
If we hold in emotional tension it will manifest in our body, typically in our shoulders. The tried and true way to get rid of tension is to talk it out. You don't have to go to a therapist (although you may want to consider it) to let out what is bothering you. Talk to your partner, a trusted friend, or a parent. Don't allow things to fester and show up in your body later on.
Shoulder tension is like a nasty passenger riding piggy back all day. It's okay to let them walk; it's not up to you to shoulder the burden.
"Some tension is necessary for the soul to grow, and we can put that tension to good use. We can look for every opportunity to give and receive love, to appreciate nature, to heal our wounds and the wounds of others, to forgive, and to serve." - Joan Borysenko
I'm Kerry (She/Her/Hers) and I am a licensed therapist, writer & speaker. This is a place to acknowledge and validate our trauma, while also learning how to turn toward aliveness and spaciousness when possible.