As you begin reading this article I want you to become aware of your shoulders. Are they hunched up around your ears, or are they relaxed? And how do you feel right now? Are you anxious or do you feel calm? If you suffer from regular neck pain then stress may be the reason why.
You can experience neck pain after sleeping awkwardly, working too long at the computer or holding a phone between your ear and shoulder. But neck pain can also be caused by constant stress.
Pain is your body’s way of telling you your life is out of balance. You can only go for so long without taking time out to recharge and repair, before you start to break down. This is your body’s way of sending a message that it’s time to slow down and take better care of yourself.
When you are constantly busy or feeling stressed your muscles automatically become tense. Some people notice this in their back, others in their neck or shoulders. If your neck and shoulder muscles are tense, this causes them to shorten, become tight and pull on the base of your skull. This constant tension and pulling leads to both neck pain and tension headaches.
While seeing a physiotherapist, massage therapist or osteopath might help alleviate your pain, it is likely to return. Why? Because if you don’t address the underlying cause (busyness and stress) the relief will only be temporary. With time the tension in your muscles returns, along with your neck pain.
Which brings us to question, ‘how can we decrease stress’? I’m going to be honest with you and say you’re the only one creating this feeling. You are doing this by saying yes too often or by continually telling yourself that you are overwhelmed. Often it is both!
This is a conversation I have regularly with my clients, and I am going to share with you how we work through decreasing stress and busyness in their life. Here is some practical advice to get you started today.
- Set boundaries around what you say yes and no to. Only say yes to things that make you feel good. Never say yes because you think you should. You do not have to justify your reason for saying no. No-one needs to know your reason but you.
- Write down everything you’ve said yes to for the next month. Go through this list and separate them out into two columns. In the first column put everything you are looking forward to. In the second column put everything you are dreading, or you only said yes to because you thought you should.
- Read back through this second column. Is there anything that you can go back and say no to? If there is I would encourage you to take it off your list. If you can’t, that’s ok. This is about learning how to decrease the stress in your life long-term, not just for the next month.
- If you find saying no difficult, create some breathing space by saying ‘I will need to check my diary’ when anybody asks you to do something. This will give you time to reflect on whether it is something you want, or have the time, to do.
- Now I want you to do a brain dump. Write a list of everything on your to-do list. Then separate these out into four columns. In the first column write everything that needs to be done today. In the second column everything that needs to be done this week. In the third everything that needs to be done this month. And in the last everything that needs to be done within the next three months.
- But I want you to be honest with yourself here. What actually needs to be done today? Let me give you an example. As I write this I have 20 minutes before jumping on a call with one of my coaching clients. After the call I have a spare hour. Would I like to finish this blog post today? Yes, of course I would. But today is also the last day for paying my dogs council registrations. So, the question then becomes … ‘does this blog post actually need to be finished today’? No it doesn’t. So in my spare hour it is more important today to go into town to pay the registrations (just in case my dogs decide to run off on an adventure – which they love to do!).
- Try to keep the list of things to do in a day to a minimum. I only have three things on mine at any one time. Three things I know I will be ABLE to get done in the spare time I have available. At the end of the day it feels good to cross them off, and I then add three more things for the following day.
- Set aside one hour a week for what I call the ‘Power Hour’. This is for all those little jobs you tend to put them off such as booking a car service, answering that invitation or returning a call.
- And lastly, when you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed I want you to stop, take a deep breath and say to yourself, ‘It’s ok … I have more than enough time to get everything done’. That one breath can change everything.
It’s now up to you to make a commitment to start decreasing the amount of stress in your life. I want you to remember that it’s the small, positive changes you make each day that have the biggest impact on your physical and emotional wellness in the long term. You don’t have to overhaul your life all at once, just one small step at a time is all it takes.
I would love to know if you find any of these practices helpful by leaving me a comment below. And if you’re wondering whether my coaching program could also help you feel better physically, decrease stress and prevent burnout, then please feel free to book a quick chat with me by clicking here.
Yours in Healing & Health,
PS. If you know someone who experiences neck pain and you think this article might help, please feel free to share it with them.