Emotional Tension Hiding in the Face


Hey, your emotions are showing on your face did you know that?  No, I don’t mean that people can tell you are angry or happy. I mean that all that stress you have been dealing with, that report that wasn’t done on time so your boss yelled at you, and your kids weren’t listening for the hundredth time you told them to pick up their clothes. All of those emotions are getting trapped in the muscles and fascia of your face.

Our bodies are amazing pieces of machinery, but they don’t always work in our favor all the time.  Each of us is equipped with a fight or flight response where the body reacts to stressors by essentially preparing our muscles to either fight or run when facing a stressor.  Over time if we don’t address those stressors our muscles can end up in a perpetual state of “being ready.” Did you know that you have 43 different muscles in your face alone?  That is a lot of opportunity for pent up emotions to get trapped and start to show. 

 What happens when we allow our emotions to get trapped in our fascia and our muscles?  For starters headaches, more specifically tension headaches.  Tension headaches usually present as a dull ache or a tightness across the forehead or sides of the head.  They can be episodic and only happen once in a while and lasting only a short time, or they could become chronic where they are happening more than 15 times in a month and never seem to end.  If they do become chronic it is worth it to make an appointment with your doctor and talk about treatments that might work for you. 

Other than headaches you might feel tingling in the face, see reddening of the cheeks, or damage to the lips.  It is also common to see skin irritation, like a rash or acne.  Stress is a common cause of acne and the more we allow stressors to affect us and hold onto those emotions the worse it’s going to get.  All that pent-up anxiety is also going to result in premature wear and tear on our muscles.  This is going to result in earlier signs of aging and you will see an increase in fine lines and wrinkles. 

 Okay, okay we get it already.  We hold to much tension in our face and that’s bad so what do we do?  In a nutshell – STRESS RELIEF.  Crazy it’s that simple right I just solved all of your facial problems with two worlds I’m amazing it’s true.  Okay, but for real stress relief is going to be a little bit different for everyone so find what works for you, but here are a few of my favorite techniques. 

 I once had an acting teacher (I know can you imagine me as an actress? Whew, what I was thinking?) teach me this exercise for relaxing the facial muscles and it was the first time, that I can remember, realizing how much tension I really hold in my face.  So here we go starting with your forehead and eye brows take a deep breath in, hold it, and on the exhale, release the tension in your forehead.  Feeling better yet?  Okay once again big breath in, hold it, and on the exhale, relax your cheeks and jaw.  I know it’s crazy right.  Another breath in and release your jaw completely.  Allow your mouth to hang open a little.  Once more, another big breath in, and this time allow your whole face to relax with the exhale.  I know it is kind of crazy how much different that feels. If you are anything like I was at this moment you are a little blown away at how much better your face feels already.  Keep doing this once or twice a day and you will start to notice that your body won’t hold as much tension in the face.  When we are aware of what is happening in our body we can actively take steps to better handle the world we live in. 

 Next up to the plate is journaling.  I know I sound like a crazy person thinking that writing is going to help cure your headaches, acne, and fine lines, but journaling is a fantastic way to deal with our emotions.  Especially in the good ole USA we struggle to deal with our emotions.  Showing our emotions is looked down upon and thought of as a weakness, but guess what?  We all have them and burying them deep in our body is not a good way to deal with them.  By taking 10 minutes a day to write about what is going on in our life and how we feel about it we can better address how we are feeling and start to prioritize which emotions to deal with first.

My husband is the perfect example here.  Think of your stereotypical manly man.  I have no emotions I am a robot beep boop beep.  Well I noticed about a year ago that the stress of his job was getting to him.  He wasn’t the same happy go lucky man that I fell madly in love with.  I suggested that he try his hand at journaling. Albeit I didn’t exactly tell him why I thought it would be good for him.  He reluctantly told me that he would and after a couple of weeks he came to me and said that he was feeling better about life.  Journaling allowed him to store his emotions on paper until he was ready to deal with them, instead of burying them deep and just never dealing with them until they boiled over in a big ugly stress filled mess.  I’m happy to report that he is back to his happy go lucky self.  Don’t worry I got his permission to share that story so he won’t be mad when he finds out I did. 

 You are going to hate me a little bit for this next one, but exercise.  I know it sucks we all hate it.  If you say you don’t you are just lying to yourself, but it’s okay we all lie to ourselves about something.  Exercise gives our body something to use all that pent-up energy for.  Instead of storing it for when something happens we give our body something to use it for.  Not to mention all the other good healthy stuff that comes along with working out. By this point we should all know that exercise is good for us, but maybe you never thought about it as giving your body a reason to use its typical fight or flight response. 

 Finally take some time for yourself.  Whether that is taking a nice hot bath, curling up with a book, coming to see your favorite Esthetician for a facial or whatever.  Make sure that you are taking some time for yourself. You can’t save the world if you aren’t in a place mentally to do so.  I promise the kids will be fine for 10 minutes, the dishes can wait a few minutes, and you can figure out whatever that smell is after.   You only get one you so make sure that you are taking care of you.