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For many people living with anxiety the symptom of being tense has become a habit. Thinking about a meerkat, they are constantly looking out for danger and that is what we are doing when we are anxious.  If we think back to fight and flight, when this happens our body prepares itself for action. Part of that preparation is to tense our muscles to run or fight. If we are not doing either then that tension is not released and stays in our bodies, meaning that we get some symptoms including headaches, shaking legs, tightness and body aching. Though we would not get all these symptoms all the time.

So, tension comes from putting in more effort and using too many muscles than required for the action, such as gripping the steering wheel until your hands turn white and hunching your shoulders and stooping in the seat.   

How to relieve tension
To relieve tension, we need to minimise its impact in our daily lives and there are three stages. These are:

Stage 1 – Identify a situation that causes you tension. You might want to complete the exercise below or think about your own experiences.

  • Driving
  • Shopping
  • Meetings
  • Filling in forms
  • Housework
  • Meeting people 
  • Appointments
  • Answering the phone
  • Work related activities

Stage 2 - Identify where the unwanted tension is: going through your body start to notice, are your shoulders hunched, are your knuckles white, are you frowning and gritting your teeth?

Stage 3- Release the unwanted tension: this video will assist you through an exercise where you tense a muscle then relax it. This can also help with stage 2 as the more you do this exercise you will note that a muscle cannot be tense and relaxed at the same time.