MUSCLE TENSION IS PROBABLY THE MOST COMMON AND OBVIOUS PHYSICAL SYMPTOM OF ANXIETY. IF YOU FIND PEACE IN YOUR ANXIETY, YOU CAN HEAL TENSE MUSCLES?
I have been treating clients with muscular tension for over fifteen years, most have suffered with an anxiety issue. It’s possible this is a modern epidemic, you can see visible effects of anxiety everywhere, interfering with our happiness and our ability to live creatively. It limits our connections with other people, saps our energy, reduces our focus and our skillfulness and undermines our health. Most of us experience anxiety at one point or another, some of us more often than others.
Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. These complaints affect how we feel and behave, and they can manifest real physical symptoms. Mild anxiety is vague and unsettling, while severe anxiety can be extremely debilitating, having a serious impact on daily life. When an experience like anxiety is pleading for you to stop and notice that you’re hurting, and you know this, your next step is to heal the hurt. It can only continue as long as you delay dealing with the message.
Muscle tension is probably the most common and obvious physical symptom of anxiety. While people experience various degrees of muscle tension, and may feel that tension in different areas of their body, there is no denying that when you have anxiety, your muscles are tense.
Life itself causes tension. It’s a natural reaction, and occurs when you have anything causing you emotional or physical stress of any kind. But those with anxiety find it harder for that tension to go away naturally. In addition, many people with anxiety worry about the pain, and have trouble feeling anything other than the discomfort of their muscles hurting.
How Anxiety Causes Tension – Muscle tension is also a result of stress. When your fight or flight system is activated – which occurs during times of stress and anxiety – your muscles contract. When you’re stressed for a prolonged period of time, your muscles never leave the contraction phase. Eventually, this tension causes pain, discomfort, and trouble with mobility. In some cases, your response to that tension may also cause further aches and pains. For example, bending over because you have back ache may lead to aches in other parts of your back, or avoiding exercise because your legs are tense may lead to further muscle aches.
Tension puts strain on your muscles and hardens them, which over time can cause you to experience both dull and sharp pains. In ways you may not realize, anxiety may also affect the way you sit, the way you stand and your general body language. The result being a need to be constantly moving or acting differently than usual – from slouching to fidgeting. These changes can lead to muscle stress, which in turn can cause muscle pain.
Most people with anxiety are more prone to noticing all types of pain and experiencing it more strongly because their minds have a tendency to focus on negative feelings. When you have anxiety, you also tend to be more prone to exercising less, eating poorly, and improperly hydrating. All of those can lead to further anxiety, and all of those can lead to muscle pains. Eating healthier, exercising, and drinking more water is an easy fix, but may not cure it all the way.
How to Relieve Muscle Tension – While anxiety itself will need to be addressed in order to prevent future muscle tension issues, once the muscles are tense, they can be relaxed using any method of relieving physical tension available. Soaking in a hot bath is a great tool for reducing muscle tension. Warm water is very soothing, heat helps release the tension, so a hot bath containing analgesic oils such as eucalyptus, rosemary, black pepper or marjoram will provide pain relief. Use up to 10 drops of any of the mentioned combinations.
Massage therapy is one of the best-known alternative remedies for relieving muscle tension. 90% of my clients complain of tension in their neck and shoulders. Deep tissue work addresses the muscle tissue directly and can assist the muscle in releasing its contraction, easing the tension, so that the muscles become relaxed.
An effective self-massage technique you can try at home uses a tennis ball to massage the tension spots. Lie on the floor with the ball placed under the area of pain or ache, such as under the shoulder blades. Gently ease some pressure onto the ball and move the body in a circular motion over the ball, feeling for the release of tension.Yoga also uses techniques to lengthen, stretch and relax muscles while simultaneously working with your breath. Yoga addresses both the physical side of muscle tension and the stress aspect as well. A simple yogic breathing exercise can be used in many anxious situations to calm the nervous system and settle the mind. Begin by sitting in an upright chair with your back straight and feet on the floor. Inhale and exhale through your nose. Place your right hand on your chest and left hand on your belly. Notice your breath pattern. If you are anxious your breath will be short and quick from your chest. One Round – Breath in through your nose for a count of four, hold for two and breath out for six, hold for two and breath in for four repeating the round six more times.
Knowing a few self-massage and breathing techniques can be very supportive when time is limited. Using them little and often can be key to managing the tension. Transferring an anxious breathing pattern from the chest to the belly, known as the ‘Hara’ in just a few minutes, can calm the system right down. ‘When we breathe deeply into our Hara we can find stillness in a body free of tension!’
It is important to allow the time to look after yourself and not let a vibrant quality of life slip away.