Why Am I So Tense? – Your Guide to Tackling Tension

Are you always tense? Shoulders hunched, fist and jaw clenched? If so, it is important that you take the time to learn how to relax and release that pent up tension. Those who master their stress levels have a higher quality of life than people who are unable to ‘let go.’

People who are tense often feel a level of guilt about taking it easy and finding time for themselves. But, prolonged tension can lead to a number of issues, such as pain, muscle aches, burnout and fatigue. One of the most common physical symptoms is head and backache pain.

Psychological Causes of Tension

In many cases, feeling tense is due to putting too much pressure on ourselves and overexerting our brain – causing us to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. You may feel like you cannot relax, or you have forgotten how it feels to be calm. This mental stress can cause our body to tense. Your body and mind are intricately linked.

There are many things that can cause tension, from anxiety and depression to a negative, traumatic experience. If you find that your mind and body have gone into overdrive, it can make it difficult for you to relax.

How can I be less tense?

Relax the body, and the mind relaxes too.

Here is a thought-provoking question to think about: When was the last time you took a long lunch break, read a book, or had a peaceful walk?

You must find time to relax to help counteract the negative effects of stress. Learning to focus your attention on peaceful thoughts will allow your emotions and body to calm down.

While a good massage certainly wouldn’t go amiss, here are a few ideas to help you take time for yourself and stop tension from building:

  • Do a tension check

Regularly check-in throughout the day – particularly if you feel nervous or stressed. Make a conscious effort to relax your shoulders, jaws, and wrists. You may need to do this frequently at first – as you will likely notice that you begin to tense up again quickly. But with regular checks to relax your muscles throughout the day, eventually you will learn to loosen up.

  • Focus on your breathing

Correct breathing is essential for relaxation. Be sure to breathe from your stomach and not your chest. Often when we are stressed, our breathing pattern changes and becomes shallow, using the shoulders rather than our diaphragm. Again, take time to be aware of this. A physiotherapist once gave me the goal of spending two minutes in a morning and an evening to focus on breathing correctly.

  • Listen to music

Any kind of music that you enjoy, can help you to feel calm. Often, classical musical or relaxing, soothing tunes are particularly helpful when it comes to reducing stress. You could try searching for ‘relaxing song tracks’ on Spotify or YouTube, put in your headphones and then close your eyes for 5-10 minutes to just listen.

  • Exercise

Take an exercise class, such as Pilates, go for a swim in the ocean or take a nice long walk among nature. Moving your body is a great way to reduce tension and rid yourself of damaging stress hormones.

  • Take mini-breaks

We live fast-paced lives but it’s important to take little breaks for ourselves throughout the day. For example, make sure you enjoy a lunch break. Use the time to read a book, sit quietly by a lake, try a new café, or just sip your coffee in peace. Even just finding a quick 5 minutes regularly throughout the day to shut your eyes and relax will help you find your balance.

  • Find a hobby

Crafting, painting, sketching, reading, writing, the list is endless – anything that helps distract you and relax you. If you love reading, check out our social media where you will find weekly book reviews from our team of psychologists!

  • Hot shower

Taking a hot bath or shower is a great way to reduce muscle tension. As warm water is soothing to muscles that are tense, it can often provide a sense of immediate relaxation. A bath is ideal, as it will give you the chance to sit back and relax. But if you are short of time, a nice warm shower will work well too.

  • Talk to a therapist

We strongly believe that therapy should be viewed as self-care. Taking an hour for yourself to talk things through will not only help you to relax but our psychologists have a number of techniques that can help you cope with stress and tension in the long run. For example, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is a common and effective form of treatment for stress.

Take control of guilt-producing thoughts.

If you feel guilty about taking time for yourself – you are less likely to continue to do it. This means that ultimately, you could end up living your life by other people’s expectations and standards. Instead of feeling guilty for relaxing, focus on why it is beneficial to you and your family. Your relationships and family life will likely fare better if you are a more energised and relaxed person.

Take our stress test

Are you wondering how stressed you really are? Take this short self-assessment for stress here. After completing the test, you will get your personal score straight away.

If you would like to learn how to better manage stress and tension, why not schedule an appointment with one of our experienced psychologists? If you are unsure whether therapy is right for you, we offer an initial 20-minute ($19) taster session. This allows you to get a ‘feel’ for therapy and see whether you would benefit with no-obligation to continue.

To book your initial session and get started on your journey towards a more relaxed and stress-free life, click here. Alternatively, please contact our reception team for more information on 1800 327 477.

Click here to book your initial 20-minute appointment
Rebecca Bobin

Rebecca bobin
AU Clinical Psychologist

Samantha Archer

Samantha Archer
AU Registered psychologist

Dr Antony Thomas

Dr Antony Thomas
NZ Registered Pscyhologist