Relieving Tension: A Quick Activity

Let’s face it: these are tense times. There’s a lot going on in the world and people are feeling it internally. As we all know, stress takes a toll on the body. Relieving tension is more important than ever.

Want a quick way to help your participants relieve tension? Teach your participants to become mindful of where they hold tension in the body and how to release it.  

This relieving tension activity can be done as a quick check-in or to start a group getting participants orientated and ready to discuss other topics.

person relieving tension

My new book, Therapy Games for Teens, offers a quick activity idea for teaching relieving tension. Like many activities in this book, it’s a simple way to address common mental health issues like stress, anxiety, depression, and grief. These activity ideas start the important conversations for healing and renewal. And YES, many of these activities can easily be adapted to other populations.

Here is one of 150 THERAPY ACTIVITIES you can find in my new book.

Tense Up and Release

Purpose: Using muscle tension and release for relaxation.

This activity doesn’t require any materials and is good for individual or group therapy sessions. It takes about 10 minutes. You can use this as a simple group therapy grounding exercise or to help get your participants focused to address other important topics.

Leading the Activity

  1. Explain that stress and other emotions may cause the body to hold tension in different areas of the body. Have the group give examples of where tension may linger.
  2. Encourage the participant(s) to sit or lie down comfortably. Let them take a couple deep breaths and close their eyes if they feel comfortable. 
  3. Explain that when you call out a part of the body, they will tense it as much as possible for up to 5 seconds. 
  4. When you say “release”, they will release this tension.
  5. Guide them through each area of the body–forehead, jaw, shoulders, etc. 
  6. End the exercise by having the group tense up their entire body and then release.
  7. Give the group a few moments to quietly reflect on the experience. 
  8. Encourage discussion.

Discussion Questions

Simple group activities like this can be a great opportunity to discuss bigger issues. After the activity, use opened-ended questions to help your participants begin these important discussions.  

Here are some suggestions:

  • Which area of your body seemed hardest to relax?
  • When you’re stressed out or overwhelmed, what part of the body do you feel the most tense?
  • When would be a good time for you to use this relaxation technique?

Pro Tips

In my book, I added a few tips for every activity that I’ve learned along the way. These tips help groups or individual sessions run smoother. Good therapy is a learning curve. Of course, you don’t have to learn everything the hard way. 

Help this session succeed by:

  • Eliminating any potential distractions during the relieving tension activity
  • Take a few seconds to pause before moving on to the next body part
  • For some participants, you may want to provide more detailed prompting. For example, “Feel your shoulders tense up…squeeze…squeeze more….and now release. Feel the relaxation flow through the area. 

We’re in this Together

As Recreation Therapy and Activity Professionals, we’ve been through a lot this year. Nobody anticipated the uncertainty that came about as we rang in a new decade.

Here’s your chance to assist other professionals struggling to do their best to help others. Your comments, suggestions, and ideas are a vital part of the TRRT blog. What you contribute can be the difference between a struggling RT and one that has an extra advantage to reach the individuals he or she serves. Comment below. Share your ideas. Your opinions are valuable. 

Quick question: How do you help your participants with relieving tension? 

Need More Therapy Activity Ideas? 

As I mentioned above, this is just one of 150 simple therapy activities in my new book, Therapy Games for Teens

image of book cover for therapy games for teens

I worked as a Recreation Therapist for almost 20 years. I learned a lot of valuable lessons along the way. This book was my way to give back and “pass the torch” to others passionate about using recreation to help others live their best lives. I kept it practical–no expensive curriculum or supplies. Use what you have to run groups that can start changing lives.

Learn more about Therapy Games for Teens–you could get a print or kindle version for less than a good meal at your favorite restaurant.

Get Your Share On!

TRRT logo image

Did you find this article helpful? Sharing helps reach Recreation Therapists so they can discover this resource. Take a few moments to share this post on your favorite social media platforms. Don’t forget to like the Real Recreation Therapist Facebook page. If you use Pinterest, check out my Recreation Therapy board with pins from featured articles and other resources.

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Keep doing what you’re doing! Your hard work is appreciated more than you know!

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