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Holiday Stress Relief (My Personal Tension Relieving Routine!)

Video Highlights

Video Highlights:
-- Breathing & Contrast Work
-- Trapezius Exercises
-- Sternocleidomastoid Muscle Exercises
-- Jaw Exercises

Hi, I’m Dr. Eric Cobb of ZHealth Performance. And if you haven’t noticed, if you look around, it’s holiday time and the holidays tend to breed a lot of tension for people. So today we’re gonna talk about just a few approaches to decreasing overall body tension and then specifically some that show up whenever we are doing a lot of new things and we’re dealing with family, et cetera. So this is kind of your holiday stress relief guide.

If you’re new to ZHealth, we are a brain-based education company. We specialize in working with doctors, coaches, and therapists around the world who work at an elite level with movement. So if this is of interest to you, subscribe to the channel, check out all of our free resources.

Alright. So one of the weird things that happens with the human brain is that we can slowly become accustomed to excess levels of tension without even noticing it. So while we’re really well known, I think for teaching mobility and a lot of other things, most movement improvement begins with awareness. So as the holidays roll around and as stress builds up, one of the key things is that you want to build into your regular practice, what we call some contrast work, where you’re gonna tighten things and relax them so your brain can remember what is normal for you, so that as tension grows and you’re experiencing it day in, day out, you don’t become accustomed to a new level of muscular tension because that can promote a lot of frustrations and pain and all kind of movement issues.

So here’s what I’d normally like my clients to do. This takes just a few minutes, so follow along. First thing we’re gonna do is set the stage by doing some breathing. We’re gonna do a typical breathe in for four seconds. Hold for four seconds, exhale for six, hold for four. And repeat that. Grab a timer. Set a timer for one minute, and you’re just gonna go through that cycle.

So breathe in for four, hold for four, exhale for six, Hold For four. All right, so you’re gonna do that four to five times, whatever feels good to you, and you should already start to be downregulating a little bit. Next we want to start doing some contrast work. Contrast means increase your tension intentionally and then release it. So we’re gonna do that with the breath.

So take a deep breath in, and when I say a deep breath, I mean a maximal breath. You’re gonna breathe in as much as you can into your abdomen, throughout your lungs, and then all the way up into your shoulders. Hold that for four to six seconds and then quickly release it. Just let all the air out. Notice the relaxation that occurs in all the areas that I mentioned. Your shoulders, your chest, your abdomen. Do it again and release. So I’d like for you to do that for about a minute. Again, you’re just trying to remind yourself that you don’t have to have so much tension in and around the areas of your lungs.

From there, we want to think about, alright, where Mo, when most people get tight, where do they get tight? Will they get tight in their flexors and their adductors? So very often we’ll have a lot of jaw tension. We’ll have neck tension, we’ll have abdominal tension, we’ll have pelvic floor tension. So we’re gonna start at our neck. Just do a couple of different exercises again to remind your brain to pay attention and to let go of tension that are building up.

First exercise is this. You’re gonna turn your head to the left. You’re gonna tilt it back, you’re gonna elevate your right shoulder and you’re gonna try and pull your head and shoulder together for five to six seconds. Be careful with this ’cause you can cramp. And then as soon as that’s done, you’re gonna reverse this and relax. So the shoulder’s gonna come down, the head’s going to flex, it’s gonna rotate and go to the opposite side. So we’re gonna relax. All right, so again, we’re going to turn head left, bring the shoulder blade up, tilt the head back, hold, hold, hold, tighten, tighten, tighten. And then release it. And then we’ll go to the opposite side.

Turn the head right, elevate the shoulder, tilt the head back, squeeze everything together, four or five, six, and release it. And repeat that two to three times on each side. Already your neck should be moving better, your shoulders should be feeling like they’re not by your ears. Everything’s starting to loosen up. Now we’re gonna work on these muscles here called the SCM.

What we want to do first is we’re going to actually tilt our head back. We’re gonna turn our head to the left and we’re going to bring our head down toward our collarbone. We’re gonna tighten up again for six seconds and then release. When we release, we’re gonna flex our head forward. We’re gonna come back to the opposite side and look up to the sky.

And again, breathe here and try to relax. Then we’re gonna go to the opposite side. So again, we’re gonna extend the head a little bit, look away, bring the head or ear down toward the collarbone, tighten everything up again, make sure that you’re doing it gently enough you don’t cramp. And then reverse all of that. Let the head go. Rotate the opposite side. Look up to the ceiling and you should feel a nice little stretch through there.

Normally two to three repetitions of the trapezius and SCM is enough to give you a lot more freedom in your neck. Now you’re gonna go back and breathe again. So we’re gonna take that big deep breath in hold And release. And what you probably will find is that just in doing that, you’re actually able to get a bigger breath in and you’re actually able to relax more on the exhale. Now we also wanna work on the jaw. ’cause like I said, a lot of times you’re having stress on the phone or whatever. You’ll build up a lot of jaw tension.

So for this one, we’re gonna get into kind of this weird position. We’re gonna take our fist, we’re gonna put it under our jaw. We’re going to press down. We’re gonna open against that resistance, and then as we’re opening against that resistance, we’re going to slowly begin to tilt our head backwards. You’re gonna be like Pac-Man. So you’re gonna press down into the fist and then slowly tilt the head back. It’s a very weird kind of feeling.

You’re gonna feel it a lot in your TM joint. You’ll get a lot of muscular tension that will build up. But then we’ll start to release once we relax everything. So the first thing we’re doing is we’re building up tension as we’re opening the jaw and then we’re releasing it. So let’s do that again. If you’re gonna press down and then begin tilting the head back And then release.

Alright, so we were working our opening musculature. We also need to relax our closing musculature. So now I’m gonna grab my jaw with my web, my hand, usually both. I’m gonna open my mouth and now I’m gonna gently try to close and that’s gonna create some tension in my muscles of what’s called mastication biting. And I’m gonna hold for six seconds,

Exhale and release. As I release, I’m gonna gently pull my jaw down. I’m gonna do that two times, and then on the third rep, as I do the release and I let the jaw go down, I’m gonna look up to the sky and I’m gonna tilt my head back a little bit. That is a very deep stretch.

So with all these jaw movements,you need to go very small and carefully. If you have any kind of issues with your jaw, make sure to clear this with your health professional. So after doing all that, you’re gonna take one more deep breath in And notice if you can take a deeper and deeper breath while maintaining relaxation in your jaw, in your neck, your chest. You’ll do the exhale and just get an idea of how you’re doing.

From here, the last thing I like to have my clients do is a full body tension, relaxation sequence. So you’re gonna take your feet, you’re gonna grip the ground really hard, typically rotate your feet out a little bit, lock your knees, tighten up your glutes, tighten up your quads, tighten up your abdomen, intercostals your pecs, everything, your arms, and then bite down, hold for a few seconds and then try to explosively relax. Do that four or five times.

Once you’re done with all this, you should feel very loose, much less stressed than when you started. These are some of my very favorite exercises, and again, it’s not just because I like to, to tighten and loosen muscles. This is a brain exercise because we’re trying to remind the brain that tension can build up unknowingly.

The fastest way to fix that is to use contrast training between tension and relaxation to remind your brain that what you’re experiencing right now doesn’t have to remain the same. All right, so for the holiday stress, this was my little gift. Hope you find this really useful, and we’ll look forward to seeing you again soon.

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