If you’re feeling the stress of the holiday season or the end of the year at work, you probably feel it in your muscles. When you’re stressed, the muscles in your body become tight and tense, which can lead to muscle soreness and even pain.
Stretching can help relieve aches and pains — such as lower back pain — as well as reduce stress. Knowing some stretches you can do at home or at the office can help you stay relaxed, no matter where you are.
Here are eight stretches you can do anywhere to relax your muscles and relieve stress.
Do you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders — literally? A simple shoulder stretch can help relieve the tension in your shoulders and upper back.
Hold one elbow with the opposite hand, gently lifting the elbow and stretching it across your chest. Hold for 30 seconds and relax. Repeat with the other arm.
Taking a few minutes to open up your chest can help you breathe deeper and feel more calm and relaxed.
With both hands behind your head, holding your elbows out, squeeze your shoulder blades together, stretching your elbows back as far as possible. Hold for 30 seconds and relax. Repeat.
If you spend most of your day sitting in front of a computer, you probably feel the strain in your neck. Release the tension in your neck and upper back with a chin tuck.
Sitting squarely and facing straight ahead, lower your chin to your chest. Hold for 30 seconds until you feel the tension in the back of your neck ease. Relax and repeat.
Side neck stretch
To stretch your lower neck, located below your ears, gently tilt your head to one side, as if trying to touch your ear to your shoulder. Keep your shoulder relaxed, being careful not to lift it to your ear. Hold for 30 seconds and relax. Repeat on the other side.
Lower back stretch
Whether you slept wrong or you’ve been sitting all day, stretching your lower back can help prevent tightness and pain.
Sit on the edge of your chair and bring one knee toward your chest. Place your hands on the back of your thigh, gently pulling it towards you. Focus on keeping a straight back, and avoid leaning forward as you stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and relax. Repeat with the other leg.
This stretch can also release tension in your lower back while helping you maintain strong, straight posture. Sitting on the edge of your seat, place your feet hip-width apart, hold your chest upright and relax your shoulders. Gently tilt your pelvis backward, flattening your lower back. Then, arch your lower back, rotating your pelvis forward. Repeat 20 times in each direction. Be sure to keep your back straight as you stretch.
If you’ve been on your feet all day, you’re probably feeling it. It’s also common to hold tension in knots on the bottom of the feet. Keep a lacrosse ball in your desk drawer and roll your feet on the ball using light pressure to release those knots when you’re feeling the tension in your feet.
You can also release tightness and tension in your foot and ankle by doing gentle ankle rolls. Sitting up straight in your chair, place one ankle on the other knee. Slowly circle your ankle clockwise 20 times, then counterclockwise 20 times. Relax and repeat with the other foot.
If you have a little bit of open floor space, the downward dog is a great stretch to release back tension and help you relax.
Start on your hands and knees with your hands placed squarely beneath your shoulders and knees beneath your hips. Pressing the balls of your feet into the floor, gently lift your hips toward the ceiling, creating an inverted “V” shape. Press your heels into the floor and pull your chest toward your knees, keeping your back and legs straight. Hold for 30 seconds. Relax and repeat.
Making stretching part of your daily routine can improve circulation, relieve stiffness, reduce stress and help ease and prevent general aches and pains. Remember that while you may feel a gentle pull during stretching, it should never be painful. If stretching hurts, you may have stretched too far, or there may be an underlying issue causing your pain. Consult with your primary care provider if your pain persists.