Muscle relaxation exercises and some medications can help reduce your muscle tension.

Tense muscles are a common symptom of stress and anxiety. Muscle tension is helpful in some situations. It can help if a person needs to run away from danger or physically protect themselves. Yet, this effect does not help against emotional distress. In fact, over time, muscle tension can cause other problems. These can include back and neck pain, headaches, and difficulty sleeping.

Some medications can reduce muscle tension. They can also have side effects. Some can interfere with other medications you are taking. Talk with your doctor about how these medications may impact you. Muscle relaxation exercises can help reduce muscle tension caused by stress and anxiety, too. They may even lessen other problems caused by muscle tension.

Muscle relaxation exercises include four steps:

  1. Divide your muscles into groups. For example, start with your forehead, then move to your cheeks, then to your neck.
  2. Relax the muscles in each group one at a time from the top of your head to your feet.
  3. Scan your entire body for remaining muscle tension.
  4. Release any muscle tension that is left.

Muscle relaxation exercises are easier to do in a quiet place. Find somewhere you will not be interrupted for at least 10 minutes. This is particularly important when you are first learning these techniques. Start the exercise with a few deep breaths to help you focus and relax. Start with one group of muscles and relax them. Imagine that those muscles are warm and heavy. Move to the second group of muscles and repeat. Continue relaxing each group of muscles until you have moved through your entire body. Finish by scanning your entire body for remaining muscle tension. Release any tension you find.

These exercises take some practice to learn. The more you practice muscle relaxation, the easier and more helpful it will be. You may want to try muscle relaxation even if you don’t think you have muscle tension. Some people find that they weren’t aware of how tense they were until they tried it!

Click here for more written information on a muscle relaxation exercise. Click here for an audio recording of a muscle relaxation with background music and without background music.

Like melting ice cream on a warm day, try muscle relaxation exercises to melt your stress away!