Updated: Feb 24
Your body holds your stress all the time. You only start to notice it when it reaches a certain threshold.
Are you content with waiting for pain, tightness or tension to alert you to the stress you’re carrying? If not, this article will show you how to release tension before it crosses that threshold.
When we’re distracted and busy doing other things, we don’t notice our bodies unless there’s something wrong. It could be hunger, thirst, fatigue or discomfort. But, just because you don’t notice anything doesn’t mean your body is fine.
Most people don’t notice the stress in their bodies until the end of the day. It’s when people are trying to relax and go to bed that they notice some tightness or tension. It’s at the end of the day that people develop headaches. Now that there are no distractions, they notice what’s happening in their bodies.
You may feel fine during the day. But your stress is still building up. It just means that your stress level is below the level of your awareness. We need to raise your level of awareness and lower your chances of stress building up too much.
A body scan could take as little or as much time as you want. It could be something as quick as 10 seconds or something as long as three minutes. Even at the longest period, you're not really interrupting your schedule for that much time to do your body so much good.
As I keep mentioning, if you calm the body, you calm the mind. If you calm the mind, you calm the body. And you just feel so much better overall.
Stress management really is about feeling better. Sometimes there's not much you can do about the things that are going on in your life. Stress management may mean you don’t stay down and are able to get back up.
Let’s practice a body scan.
A body scan is just checking in with different parts of your body and noticing if there's any tension and letting it go.
Make sure your feet are flat on the ground. You can have your hands on your lap or at your side.
Notice your head. How does your head feel? Take a deep breath in and exhale while focusing on letting go of any tension in your head.
Move down to your neck and notice if there is any tension in your neck. Breathe in and exhale while focusing on letting go of any tension in your neck.
Move down to your shoulders. Is there any tension in your shoulders? Sometimes it helps to drop your shoulders away from your ears. Now inhale and release the tension in your shoulders as you exhale.
Now notice if there is any tension in your arms. Breathe in and notice your arms relaxing as you exhale.
Now focus on your back. Many people hold tension in their backs. Inhale and, while focusing on your back, exhale and let go of any tension you noticed in your back.
Move your attention to your chest. Sometimes when we feel really under pressure, we can feel like there's an elephant standing on our chest. Or we say things like there's something weighing on my heart, something weighing on my chest.
It's not a coincidence that a lot of our emotions are described as physical experiences because the two are connected. So if there's any tension in your chest, just go ahead and inhale. Feel the tension loosening up as you exhale.
Move your attention to your stomach. Speaking of physiological terms, “butterflies in my stomach” is often used to describe anxiety. Notice any tension in your stomach. Inhale... and sigh. Feel that sense of relief.
Now focus on your hips. If you have a job where you're seated at a desk for a long time, your hips can get really tight. It's not a coincidence that a lot of people end up having to have hip surgery. So let's let go of some of that tension in our hips. Breathe in and then just let it go as you exhale.
Now we're going to scan our thighs. Even if there isn't any tension there, it helps to just breathe in, and while focusing on your thighs, breathe out.
Move down to your calves. Notice any tension in your calves. Go ahead and breathe in. And exhale.
Finally, move down to your feet. Notice any tension in your feet. Breathe in and exhale while focusing on letting go of any tension in your feet.
As I mentioned, you can scan your body as quickly or as slowly as you want. Either way, you are building the skill of increasing your awareness of your body so that you are not ignoring it during the day and then suffering for it at night.
Body scanning is really good at preventing that buildup of tension and tightness that naturally occurs throughout the day from dealing with the constant little teeny stressors going on in our lives.
Use this body scan technique to help manage your stress and keep your body feeling good.