12 Stretches for Stress Relief You Can Do Right Now
Stress is unavoidable, but how you manage that stress can make a big difference in your quality of life. Simply adding a few stretches for stress relief to your daily routine can help you slow down, breathe deeply, and relax.
Why You Need to Manage Your Stress
Being in “fight or flight” mode 24/7 is a sure recipe for disaster, so learning to manage your stress is essential. Yes, a little stress now and then can be a good thing, but the way most of us live, with stressors in the red zone on the daily, can start to affect health negatively if not positively addressed.
Stress can manifest itself in many ways, including irritability, changes in appetite, weight gain or weight loss, muscle tension, headaches, trouble sleeping, high blood pressure, stress on the respiratory system, stress on the heart, increased possibility of stroke, depressed immune system, and elevated cortisol levels, among other things.
Lowering your levels of stress and catching it before it becomes a chronic condition is vital for optimal health.
What are the Benefits of Stretching?
It may be hard to find the time to fit stretching into your already busy schedule, but maybe looking at all it has to offer will make it more appealing. Stretching has a host of benefits, such as improving:
- Daily functions
- Tension release
- Athletic ability
- Pain reduction
- Joint health
- Stress reduction
Stretches to Do When You’re Stressed At Home
No matter where you are, stress can build up throughout the day, and it’s important to take a moment and stretch it out.
1. Chest and Shoulder Stretch
Start by standing in a doorway. Place one hand on each side of the doorframe so your hands align with your head. Keep your shoulders down as you lean forward to feel a good stretch through your chest and shoulders.
2. Forward Fold
Start by standing with your feet about hip-width apart. Cross your arms in front of you and fold forward at the waist, allowing your upper body to hang and stretch out. Feel a good stretch through your lower back, hamstrings, hips, and glutes. Relax and breathe before you return to standing and repeat.
3. Happy Baby Stretch
Lie on your back and put your legs in the air. Then grab the bottom of each foot to pull your legs gently toward your chest. This will help open up your hips and lower back.
4. Downward Dog
Start on your hands and knees with your arms about shoulder-width apart with your palms down. Spread your fingers out and lift your knees off the ground, straightening your legs until your hips are in the air, keeping your head aligned with your spine. Try to keep your feet flat on the floor or at least your heels pushing toward the floor as you do this to feel a good stretch through your calves and hamstrings, back and hips, chest and shoulders.
Stretches to Do When You’re Stressed At Work
Being at work can bring on all kinds of stress. Add to that the possibility that you might be sitting in front of a computer most of the day, and you’re looking at a whole lot of built-up tension in your muscles. You probably can’t just whip out a yoga mat and get your stretch on, but there are some great stretches for stress relief you can do right at your desk.
5. Side-to-Side Neck Stretches
Start by sitting up straight in a chair. Drop your head to the right and gently pull down on it to feel a good stretch through the left side of your neck as well as your traps, upper back, and shoulder region. Repeat on the opposite side.
6. Neck Circles
Allow your head to fall forward and then down. Gently roll to the right and then roll back down to the center and to the left. Repeat.
7. Seated Hip Stretch
From your office chair, sit up straight and bring your right foot up onto your left knee. Press your right knee toward the ground to feel a good stretch through your hips on the right side. Repeat on the opposite side.
8. Wrist and Forearm Stretches
While seated, start by straightening your arms in front of you and grasping your right palm with your left hand. Pull it gently back toward your body to feel a stretch through the inside of your arm from the inner elbow to the inner wrist. Next, grab your hand and gently push your palm in the opposite direction, toward the floor. Feel this stretch from your outer elbow all the way to the top of your wrist and hand. Release and repeat on the opposite side.
9. Overhead Reach and Stretch
While sitting in your chair, look up and stretch your arms out above your head. Then clasp your hands together and push upward toward the ceiling. Feel a good stretch through your arms, shoulders, and upper back.
Stretches to Do When You’re Stressed Before Bed
If you still feel anxious toward the end of the day, it’s a great time to do some pre-bed stretches for stress relief. Stretching before bed can help you fall asleep faster, turn off your mind, improve your circulation, and bolster your body’s ability to heal itself during the night.
10. Lying Knee to Chest Stretch
Begin by lying on your back on the floor or on the bed with your legs outstretched. Bend your right leg and bring it up to your chest, gently pulling your knee toward your body. Feel a good stretch and then release your leg back to the outstretched position. Repeat with the left leg.
11. Cat Cow Stretch
Begin on your hands and knees on your bed with your palms face down directly under your shoulders. Drop your head to your chest and round your back, sucking in your stomach, and tucking in your pelvis. You’ll get a good stretch through your shoulders, neck, and entire back. Next, bring your head up and back as you arch your back, feeling a good stretch through your chest and abdomen regions.
12. Lying Spinal Twist
Begin by lying on your bed on your back with your legs outstretched. Grab your right leg, and bend at the knee, bringing it up and across your chest to the left side. With your left elbow, press down on your right knee to feel a good stretch through the entire right side of your body. Hold this position for a count of 10 and then release, repeating on the opposite side.