Have you been feeling the “stress” in the top of your shoulders that you just can’t get rid of? Are you tired of having a sore neck? It’s likely that a lack of movement is one of the main contributors to your discomfort (along with about 5000000 other factors that I briefly cover in this manual). Try these SIMPLE steps to get you feeling less stressed. You can try one at a time, a few at a time, all of them in a row, or none of them if you’re feeling particularly rebellious.
It’s a simple idea, but ridiculously effective and doesn’t require equipment. Take a big deep breath in for 5 seconds, hold for 3, and exhale for 5.
This breathing drill will help to activate your body’s parasympathetic nervous system (PNS; aka Rest and Digest nervous system that helps your body recover) and decrease your body’s sympathetic nervous system response (SNS; aka Fight or Flight nervous system that helps kick your body into overdrive should you find yourself running away from a tiger). A quick Google search will tell you all you want to know about those fancy systems.
Again, a very simple idea. If your headache/stress is from a lack of water, then this is a very simple way to decrease the presence of pain.
But don’t over-complicate hydration – drink when you feel thirsty.
If you’re drinking too much water (aka you’re peeing every 10 minutes and it’s clearer than mountain glacier water) and your headache is still there, you may need sodium (aka salt) to help your body absorb and retain water.
Don’t be scared of salt, it’s your friend.
3. Lay Flat on Your Back
Now it’s time to get rid of (or at least decrease) the tightness you’re feeling in your neck with some MOVEMENT.
- Place your feet flat on whatever surface you’re lying on so your knees are bent.
- Tuck your chin like you’re giving yourself a double chin and put your arms at your side.
- Reach down your sides towards your feet and hold for 5 seconds.
- Repeat as many times as you want, but start with at least 10.
Notice that you can reach your arms down your side and your shoulders don’t stop you. That’s most likely because your tightness is just a lack of movement and isn’t actually tightness in the classical sense that the muscle is shortened and doesn’t want to stretch.
3.5. Make that Stretch Actually Last (aka make it stick in your unconscious brain)
There are a few reasons why activating those muscles that we just stretched is important. One, you have to realize the muscle is capable of whatever you’re going to put it through and that you’re actually not broken. Two, a stretch will most likely not last until you give it a reason to.
To do this, shrug your shoulders to your ears and push the back of your head into whatever surface you’re on and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Relax in between sets for a few seconds – you shouldn’t be sweating profusely. You can do this in between every stretch discussed in #3, or do them separately – that’s up to you my child.
4. Movement and Distraction from the Pain
Doing something that you love is pain relieving in itself. Find a movement that you enjoy doing, like walking, swimming, jogging, working out, hiking, gardening, and DO IT! If you find an activity you enjoy that keeps you moving, I GUARANTEE that your pain levels will go down and you WILL feel better. Distract yourself from the pain and have some fun all at the same time.
5. Grab a Towel
Feel your spine just under your neck. You’ll find a big bulgy bone – that’s your C7 vertebra. A lot of tissues attach to your C7 and a lot of movement is supposed to come from that area. This is often not the case for many of us. Rub a towel 4 inches in every direction from the C7 spot swiftly and with however much pressure feels good. Pro tip is getting someone to do it for you so you can fully relax into it. Anywhere from 30 seconds up to 3 minutes should do the trick.
This is a good way to disrupt the central nervous system temporarily to induce some pain relief. When you provide a new stimulus that the brain isn’t used to, your brain will focus on that instead of the pain.
6. The Other 5000000 Factors
Your pain isn’t simple; it is remarkably complicated. It can be influenced by emotional stress, financial stress, social stress, past pain experiences, nutrition, activity levels, your own perception of your pain, and so on and so forth. This may be the hardest step because it is easier said than done to evaluate your own life and figure out what else can be causing pain. But the less your brain has to process, the easier it can organize stress and pain.
These factors are the reason why everyone experiences different pain levels for the exact same stimulus. Take past pain experiences for example. Getting your blood taken could be a 1/10 on the pain scale if you aren’t afraid of blood or needles. On the flipside, it could be a 10/10 if you are afraid of blood or needles.
More simply put, if convince yourself that you aren’t broken, and you’ll start to believe it.
Find out what actually works for YOU and DO IT. If what I discussed here helps, that’s amazing, keep it going! Remember, I likely haven’t assessed you and I don’t have the magic powers to read your mind (sad, I know). If you try something I discussed here and it makes you feel worse, definitely don’t do it. With that being said, don’t go into these steps with the thought they won’t work because the chances of experiencing a negative outcome will be high if you do so.
The last and most important point, do everything with INTENTION. Don’t rush through these steps just to get them done. They shouldn’t take very long, so slow down and do it with the controlled INTENTION of de-stressing. Lastly, the art of de-stressing can be a slow process to learn and you will need to do it everyday for the next little while, but if it works it’s super simple and remember, it’s FREE.