In the past few weeks, it has been brought to my attention how incredibly tense I am. I don’t think I’d ever realised before just how I hold myself, how all my muscles are bunched and tight and rigid. I have been advised to practise relaxation techniques for fifteen minutes, twice a day. But I’ve been tense for so long that my body seems to be set in stone, and the harder I try to relax, the tenser I get.

I’ve tried listening to a relaxation CD, where you practise tensing then relaxing muscles throughout the body, but I really didn’t find it helped. If anything, I got tenser! Mind you, the narrator had a verrrry annoying accent. I’ve also tried visualisation, where you picture somewhere beautiful, and try to really take yourself there. But my mind is obstinate and won’t cooperate. I love to knit, and I love to read, but I’ve learned (unwittingly) to do both of these activities with my body all scrunched up and tight, so they don’t necessarily relax me. I think I must be the most uptight, tense person on the planet!

So, help me out. How do you relax? How do you unkink those tense muscles? Any suggestions will be heartily welcome, and gratefully received……  

34 thoughts on “Relax…..

  1. Dancing, listening to music, with a couple of cds in particular if I need a certain type of relaxation, have a bath, staring at the sea….

  2. I have to admit to relaxing with relaxation cd’s. The ones by Glen Harrold are good, as his voice is less annoying than others. How long have you tried them? It does take practice to be able to train your body to relax when you want it to, and may be worth persevering with, the same with visualisation, it isn’t something that will happen straight away and again your brain needs to be trained to cooperate.
    I nice hot bath with lavender is also a good bet for relaxing, both mind and body.
    For panic attacks or anxiety Bach’s Rescue Remedy is brilliant, I used to use it a lot when I suffered from anxiety and panic attacks a lot.

  3. It;s no wonder you’re so tense…you had a lot going on in the last few months. xx

    My tip has been said before…Lavender. I swear by it. A good hot bath filled with good quality lavender bubble bath, candles flickering and a glass of something in your hand…just picturing it now! It works a treat.

  4. I found yoga really good – when I had anxiety I did 15 minutes of stretches every day ending with a total relaxation pose. A hot bath with lavender oil – even if I could only ‘relax’ in it for 5 minutes 😉 And deep breathing exercises when I felt very panicky. I couldn’t use the relaxation tapes either when I was really bad 🙁

    Hope you find something that workd for you xxx

  5. It’s breathing exercises for me. In through the nose as deeply as possible, hold, breathe out through the mouth as long as possible. Repeat for as long as you can. I generally do this right before going to bed, since I often have trouble sleeping, and it really helps put me to sleep. Something about taking control over what is normally a reflex seems to help me relax.

    Best to do this lying down, sometimes deep breathing makes people dizzy as it brings a lot more oxygen into the body.

    Hope you feel better. And take a break if you need one – we’ll still be here when you get back! ;D

  6. Warm bath with a book, sometimes music but it depends very much on my mood! Exercise – until 4 years ago, i thought people who said exercise gave you more energy were barking. Then I decided that I really needed to do something about my fitness levels and started swimming. I still go twice a week and I try to go for a bike ride once or twice a week. Amazing the difference it makes – my partner will sometimes shove me out of the house with a ‘you need a bike ride’ and he’s always right.
    And one of the best ones for me is sewing. Unfortunately I’m one of those people who can’t sit down and relax until after I’ve finished my ‘to do list’ which means sewing comes way down on that list and more often than not gets forgotten about… but it does do the trick for me!
    Hope you feel better soon!

  7. Pilates for me. I go to two classes a week, taught by a physiotherapist as I have a degenerative problem with my spine. My posture has improved soooo much, even though I can’t do all the exercises. Just one thing to remember that can help a lot – Shoulders down and back. If you work on keeping your shoulders away from your ears it will make a big diference on its own. Take a look at yourself pushing a supermarket trolley or sitting in the car waiting for traffic lights, most people are really hunched up. Shoulders down and back, that’s the mantra to chant to yourself!

  8. Nothing that hasn’t already been mentioned I think. Pilates has worked wonders for me as has yoga – back before I realized that I was double-jointed and probably shouldn’t bend anything too far back. Walking’s good too, especially if I can manage to do so without thinking too much about anything.

    Audiobooks, stretching, making elaborate dream castles in the sky … 🙂

  9. All the above for me too.

    Especially essential oil of lavender, Pilates if you can find a good teacher and preferably one-to-one. And Alexander Technique – again one-to-one to start with but then you can do it on your own.

    And if you’re really really uptight then I use a herbal tincture of oats. You can find it in Holland and Barret (amongst others) called Avena Sativa. Just a few drops in water. I use this at night if I’m having a sleepless spell and I never have any next-day sleepiness left over.

    And yes, those lovely long beach walks you’ve got.

  10. I’m like you, I can’t do the CDs… or yoga… or the “deep breathing”. I find stretching helps a bit. Just general stretches for your muscles. Getting lost in a good book with some essential oils. I like lemon – it just is refreshing and perks my mood which helps with tension.

  11. I personally swear by Tai Chi /qigong / dao yin- but either that or Pilates/alexander technique will help. I would totally recommend going to a class though, it is impossible to pick these things up from a book, so the best one is probably the one where you can get to a class on a regular basis. Even just doing the warm up routine every morning helps start the day on a positive note. I can’t do the whole meditation/relaxation CD thing at all, mostly becasue the pseudo smooth smug voices they always put on them really really irritate me. And the talking distracts me from the actual process of relaxing.

    When I started tai chi though, I though it was making me tense, but then realised that in fact it was just that I had been taught was properly relaxed was and so I noticed it a whole lot more than before. After about 6 months the nagging shoulder/upper back things that I get from working at a desk all day were gone because I was sitting properly, and noticing when I was doing stressed shoulder hunching. And you have to really really concerntrate on what you are doing so it means you really do leave other stuff behind.

    Good luck though,


  12. I too am very tense!

    Like you I am so fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the country, so I just open my front door and run and run!

    It’s not a pretty site, this purple, sweating middle-aged crone lumbering along – but the sheep have got used to it – and nothing, but nothing makes me feel more like I have earned a bit of knitting time and a packet of chocolate biscuits afterwards….

  13. Hot baths, herbal teas, down comforter are my at-home techniques. I also use simple stretching and yoga DVDs that are easy to follow while watching/listening. If I am just listening to tape/CD, and am already tense, I would find it difficult without actually moving about. I do have one CD that I use often, Experience Yoga Nidra, Guided Deep Relaxation, by Swami Janakananda. He has an accent I enjoy…might vary with listener though.

    Have you tried professional massage? Talented masseuses can identify particular areas of tension, work on them and give you techniques you can use at home.

    And sometimes I just accept that I’m tense and go on with my day! Or knit.

  14. I’m restating a few things here, but I find yoga, walking meditation, massages, good tea, and selective use of essential oils like lavender to be helpful.

    Also, do you know of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab and Black Phoenix Trading post? They have a few essential oil blends, fragrances, and massage oils that are WONDERFUL. I’ve tried a lot of their stuff, and I’d be more than happy to make recommendations and/or send decants your way.

  15. A nice walk down the pretty lane you featured a few posts back and then a neck, shoulder, and hand massage from your sweet Tony will relax you like nothing else. A massage from your true love is sooooo sweet. I swear by it. There will, of course, need to be an exchange of favours…..hmmmm…..I assume Tony will let you know straight away what will be a fair trade. My sweetie always does!

    Hope you can find some soothing comfort soon Dee. I’ll be thinking of you.

  16. If you are concerned about muscular tension and posture in particular, I would agree with those who suggest yoga and Alexander Technique. I’ve only done yoga myself, but I hear good things about AT.

    Another thing to think about is massage, although this is impractical as a daily practice. Aromatherapy massages have been very helpful to me at times when I was carrying a lot of emotional/mental stress in my back and shoulders. If you have a lot of tension there, it can be a bit painful at the time, as the masseuse crunches through the lactic acid in your shoulder muscles, but it loosens you up for days afterwards.

    One of the gentler martial arts, in the vein of Tai Chi (sorry about spelling), might also be useful. A friend of mine who is recovering from a long illness finds kung fu combined with some of these gentle elements helpful for him. However, I sense that his personality may be quite different from yours.

  17. Pilates, one to one with a fabulous teacher, probably female. Try it Dee it will change your life.

  18. I’m get really tense – grind my teeth until they break and give myself really bad tension migraines.

    I found that yoga and pilates help loads as many people have said. Also proper massages (swedish or deep tissue) to get rid of the stubborn knots in my shoulders.

    Also hinted at by others – a bit of loving does wonders for relaxing 😉

  19. Continue with the relaxation, it is a technique that can be invaluable – however it does need to be learned and practised to be of use. It took me a long while to get to be any good at it – but having persevered I find it very useful and am able to spot tension early now and do something about it before I get tied up in knots.
    My sister swears by a good therapeutic (as opposed to relaxation) type massage, they dig in and get to all the knots in the body – but beware, it can be a little painful at first.

    all the best

  20. All I can say is, if you find something that works, please let us know! when I’m making an overt attempt to be self aware, I find that my shoulders are up at my ears, I’m clenching my teeth and my head hurts. About 6 months ago my dermatologist recommended a visit to a tanning salon (yes, my dermatologist!) to help keep the psoriasis at bay. I go twice a week, for 20 minutes and put a lot of effort into relaxing, or at least being aware of my tension. If nothing else, the UV therapy for the psoriasis is working… 🙂

  21. I think it takes more than just learning to relax – but like others i’d really recommend yoga – and try to develop a routine of yoga stretches for a morning like Salute to the Sun (helps relax my knotted up muscles – which knitting seems to make worse), deep tissue massage works too but can be a bit pricey so that tends to be more of a treat (even tho it hurts!) I also go to a chiroprac sometimes too – and it works.

  22. Long hot bath with candles alongside, maybe a glass of champagne as well,
    Bath bomb to go in – preferaby with sparkly bits in (from ‘Lush’) & a book that I’ve read & enjoyed many times before.

    Otherwise a trip to the hairdresser works for me – I have no idea why!

  23. I’m not the best person for advice on this subject as I’m generally a pretty relaxed person and don’t stress easily, but have you tried using background sounds instead of music…like walesong, thunderstorm, babbling brook. Also some air purifiers which use negative ions. Of course these go hand in hand with all the good advice from those of you who do find ways of dealing with stress. Unfortunaltely as we are all different what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for all so we have to find what’s best for each of us. Good luck de-stressing.

  24. Dee – I started going to a chiropractor when I had a job which involved working in Newcastle and Birmingham for half a week each. I was worried about the business (correctly – we closed a factory and I found myself redundant), stressed with the job in general, and unhappy being away from home half the week. I also spent up to 6 hours in the car each way, depending on traffic, which screwed my back up into the sort of knots that you don’t want to find in your knitting! My chiro has really helped me to regain my correct posture, and live a much more comfortable life – although I was using relaxation techniques, I’d taught my body that an abnormal pose was normal. My pelvis was so twisted that when I lay on the couch, one leg looked to be 2 inches shorter than the other, and I was wearing my shoulders for earrings. Marie, my chiro, has helped me to teach my body what’s correct again, and it means that I can relax physically as well as mentally (walks, lavendar, a good book, my knitting, etc). Hope you can find some release.

  25. Yoga? There’s a lot of good DVDs out there now. Or at least stretching…there’s a TON of websites about stretching that’s related to work/ing and the little exercises can help a lot. Small aromatherpy things help too – incense or candles with relaxing scents can make a huge difference. I like the “Hemi-Sync” line of CDs, particularly the metamusic ones. I certainly didn’t realize they had so many!

  26. I liked nothing better than sitting and reading, with my legs knotted up into a pretzel shape. I’d “forgotten” how to breathe, breathing shallowly rather than the way we instinctively used to as children. Yoga has helped a lot, although it takes time. I found a lovely teacher (much better for a novice than following a DVD) whoincludes a half hour of “yoga nidra” (a relaxation technique) into our 1-1/2 hour class. We also practice breathing techniques as well as work on various poses. I have made progress in the two years I’ve been with her. I no longer panic and gulp air out of fear of coming short. And I am learning to take a step back when things threaten to overwhelm me, and relax. Does any of this sound like what you need?

  27. I find that a really lovely facial works wonders, even better than a massage actually. Massages are great to pummel out the kinks, but that’s different than RELAXING. Something about a facial (even a home facial) really does the trick for me. Maybe because it’s sitting still with a purpose, and that tricks my brain? Not sure. I just know it works.

    The other trick, which is a yoga/meditation variation is: allow, allow, allow. The best way I can describe it is to sit/half recline quietly and comfortably somewhere, close your eyes and stop controlling, stop reacting. Just allow. The sounds around you, the thoughts, whatever needs to flit through your conscious self, let it in, let it go. When I’m really worn out, I find ten minutes of “planing” like this is as good as a several hour nap!

  28. I didn’t learn to relax mentally until I had learnt propertly how to physically relax. I find a sauna very relaxing, don’t treat it as an endurance test but start modestly and just stay in as long as you feel comfortable. Hubby’s a convert too and he isn’t a fan of hot baths/duvets/holidays like me.

    I’ve also been taught a method of relaxation called active relaxation. Basically you learn to become more aware of the muscles in your body by tensing and relaxing different parts of the body in the traditional way. The point of this exercise is to learn to tell the difference between tensed muscles and relaxed muscles! You do this exercise SEVERAL TIMES A DAY this is very important and only takes a few moments. Over a period of days and weeks you train your body to consciously relax on command, at first over several deep outbreaths while you sit or lie comfortably, and ultimately whilst you do any activity.

    This method doesn’t focus on mental activity, just on what is happening within the body, and it is amazing what a difference releasing physical stress can make to your mental well being. For me learning to concentrate on the muscles in my face and head/neck and relax these by an effort of will has been a real eyeopener (literally, I look about 5 years younger!).

  29. Hot bath with either Lavender, rose or something nice from Lush (try their web site), best with candles or book or both. Or you can get a lavender balm from Rose & Co and rub on your pulse points when a bath is not possible. Hugs & cuddles. Laughter/ Smiles- could be a happy song (not I’m H-A-P-P-Y but a song which makes you smile and lifts your spirit. Mine at present is ‘Shine’ by Take That and I not even a fan!!, it just works)or read a passage from a book which always makes you laught or I know you like audio books – listen to comedy tapes. Sunshine. Fresh air. Walks. Scented Candles. Yes, yoga, pilates, tai chi can all help but some of my suggestions work in the instance rather than having to set time apart. The relaxation tapes can work though I do get feed up with some of narrators also and the soundtracks ones with running water always send me rushing off to the loo – it is just a matter of trial and error – just remember everyone is different and what works for one may not work for you. Bach rescue remedy can help but just be careful if you are on medication. Just one last thing that can work quickly which taught to me by my Dsylexic counceller is to sit a chair ( you can do if when standing up – depends on your balance) cross your right leg over your left at the ankles, then hold your arms in front, cross your left arm over your right, place your palms together, link you fingers and pull your hands back and round so your left hand is resting to your breast bone. Drop your forehand down to your clasped hands. Breathe in through your noe and out though your mouth. Do this as long as you need – yes you’ll look a bit strange but who cares it works. It’s to do your brain having to take a different pathways to deal with the postion of your body. Don’t stress if something doesn’t work – just try one of the other suggestions you have received and remember they have all been sent to you with love.

  30. Hi Dee. The one thing that always works for me is very simple – Ab Fab or French & Saunders! Gets me laughing every time. Guaranteed to relax.

  31. I dont. I’m the same as you. Very tense indeed and with locked up shoulders from damaging them as a child…. Anyway best things I can suggest are:
    tiger balm massaged in to your tight bits followed by two ibuprofen and a good LONG nights kip. The massage is enough to make me dribble.

  32. Massage and the chiropractor have been the only things that really work for me. Also, a good cuppa tea and a bath. Sleep like a baby!

  33. The ultimate relaxation has to be massage. Nothing beaths it but you’ve got to have a good therapist as some are useless. And a bad massage is just too stressful. My therapist is wonderful and reall works out all hte pain and stiffness in my back and neck and I’m going for a treatment tomorrow. I coudn’t live without my regular massages. The only thing that gives me complete painrelief even if it is only for a short while.

  34. I don’t know if it would work for you, but right now I’m spinning my way through the bad times. Knitting isn’t necessarily the best thing in the world when everything else is a mess- it’s too easy to get the crochet hook out, put in a lifeline, frog back a stitch/row/foot or two and pretend it never happened. With spinning, that’s virtually impossible- you really just have to go with the flow and accept that the fibre has an input on what it wants to be, too, and keep moving forwards regardless.
    Also, if you can find it, the Australian Bush Flower Essences (like Rescue Remedy) do a spray bottle called Clear Space Spray which is beautiful. Very calming and smells nice too, and it can take the edge off situations in our hectic household within seconds of a spritz.