Woman with index fingers on forehead, and hands clasped over face feeling stressed at laptop

Financial De-Stress – Week 5: Stop the Burn Today!

In 2021, we sent out this collection of de-stressing exercises to a group of clients over the span of 10 weeks in hopes that they might help alleviate the anxiety of debt as our clients moved through their programs. We received such amazing feedback that we wanted to make sure the rest of our clients had access to these 10 meditation, mindfulness, and awareness exercises as well! We’ll be releasing a new one each Monday morning, so check in at the start of each week for a brand new exercise.

The “Stop the Burn” exercise identifies the area in your body where you have the most stress-related pain and discomfort. From there, we teach you how to use progressive muscle relaxation to gain control. Many know how stress most affects our body, while some may not understand the specific location. This exercise will help you find the burn and help you take control of your muscles in this area.

Step 1: Where’s the Burn?

You can use this exercise anywhere you go. Sit on a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the ground. Imagine you have a scanner that checks your entire body. Let it scan from the soles of your feet to the top of your head.

Be aware of how your body feels at each point of the scan. Now imagine your scanner has a system to detect where you feel most tense. That particular area is the place in your body screaming about your stress. Where do you feel the burn?

Step 2: On and Off

Now focus your mind on the muscles around this “burning” area: focus and slowly tense the muscles in the region. Keep them tight for about five seconds. Now, quickly relax your muscles.

If you felt any pain in the region, tense your muscles even less this time. However, if you felt fine the first time, tense these muscles more vigorously. Remember not to hold your breath and continue to breathe normally throughout.

Repeat this sequence of tensing and relaxing a total of 8-10 times.

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Stop the Burn – Extended Exercise

This exercise relaxes your entire body by tensing and relaxing muscle groups throughout your body progressively. You will tighten each muscle group for about five seconds without straining and suddenly release the tension to feel the muscle relax.

If you have any pain or discomfort at any targeted muscle groups, feel free to omit that step. Always breathe throughout these exercises. Do not ever hold your breath.

Step 1: Breathe Easy

Begin by finding a comfortable position—sitting or lying down—somewhere you will not be interrupted. Focus only on your body. If you notice your mind wandering, bring it back to the working muscle.

Take a deep breath through your abdomen, hold for a few seconds, and exhale slowly. As you breathe, notice your stomach rising and then your lungs filling with air. As you exhale, imagine the tension in your body being released and flowing out of your body.

Now repeat: Take a breath. Then exhale. Stay focused. Be deliberate.

Step 2: A Tight Squeeze

Now tighten the muscles in your forehead by raising your eyebrows as high as you can. Hold for about five seconds before releasing, then feel your tension fade away.

Pause for about 10 seconds.

Afterward, smile widely, feeling your mouth and cheeks tense. Hold for about five seconds, then release and appreciate the relaxation of your face.

Pause for about 10 seconds.

Next, tighten your shoulder muscles for five seconds and release and relax for 10. When pausing, notice the feeling of stress relief that comes with this relaxation.

Pause for about 10 seconds.

Do the same steps for your arms. Then, your chest. Go to the lower body – your buttocks, thighs, and calves. Tense each muscle for five seconds and relax for 10. Again, feel the relief in each muscle.

Finish by tensing the muscles in your feet. And when you relax, exhale as well, allowing the last remnants of tension to leave your body.


If you find this exercise helpful and want to do it with even more success, we recommend taking the time to record yourself giving the instructions. Go through each section of muscles, giving yourself prompts to tense for five seconds and relax for 10 seconds after each muscle group. Use a calm, steady tone of voice to help you fully engage in this relaxation technique. And feel the burden of stress begin to leave you as you exhale.

Join Our Client Sessions

If you’re interested in learning more about ways to stay motivated, cope with stress, and receive other support, contact [email protected] and ask to be invited to our “Join the Conversation” sessions. These private virtual sessions are specially designed as a safe space for clients in the Beyond Finance program. You’ll learn about different topics related to dealing with debt, meet other clients in the program, and participate in a Q & A session where you can ask our financial therapists anything you like.