Sometimes, when we hear someone say "stress," our skin begins to tingle. Imagine the Wicked Witch of the West repeating this onomatopoetic word with her half-snarl, half-smile and arched eyebrows. She wriggles her gnarly green fingers at you. "Stressssss, stresssss, stresssss," she says, her upper lip curled and touching the tip of her unmistakeable aquiline nose.
We all have stress in our lives, and often there is little we can do to decrease the stress load we face on a daily basis. Yet it is imperative to create space and time to decompress from the stress that builds up in the body and mind, as holding on to these tensions can quite literally make us sick. Below is a simple relaxation exercise to help let go of the stress of the day. Also helpful are meditation, guided imagery or visualization exercises, and journaling to emotionally 'decongest.'
"If you hold on tight to what you think is your thing you may find you're missing all the rest." ~Dave Matthews Band, "Best of What's Around"
When I was younger, my mother, a hospital technologist famous for in-depth dinner conversations about gastrointestinal procedures, would often serve up the saga of my birth along with pork chops and potatoes: "In the womb she almost strangled herself with her umbilical cord...she wouldn't let go," she'd say.
As much as I wanted to bury my face in the salad and hide my head in the peas, I can't help but think how my life brims with symbolism; how I wanted out before giving the daylight a try. How I held on so tightly to the thing that connected me to Ma, afraid to let myself breathe on my own.
Yup. You guessed it. I've done a lot of holding on...and a lot of choking. But you can't really taste life when it's stuck in your throat or clamshelled between your sweaty palms.
Holding on: I didn't give up the baby bottle until my fourth birthday. After Ma begged me, I slowly, reluctantly lowered it into the trash. I let the rubber nipple slip through my stubborn little fingers. Bye bye, ba ba. I did it, but the process was like dipping my toe in a pool of lava.
Choking: When I was ten, I won the fourth grade spelling bee and qualified for the local competition. My fear of screwing up felt like thousands of tiny red ants crawling through my veins. I told my friend to take my place.
Can you spell q-u-i-t-t-e-r? I can.
I'm young, but I've already skipped a LOT of fun events and missed a lot of opportunities because I was afraid of looking like an idiot or failing while trying. Sometimes, I still have to force myself to unwrap those same stubborn fingers from the situation and let it slide away.
If you're like me, you'll pace around your apartment with the object in your hand (the thought in your mind) before you can finally come to terms with chucking it in the trash and walking out the door to enjoy the rest of your day. But, like I learned in one of my journalism classes, you've got to "gulp & go;" you force yourself to do the thing you fear. The first time, you feel the lump in your throat. The second time you do it, it starts to break up and fizz away like an Alka Seltzer tablet. And you do feel better fast.
Maybe your "thing" is a fear, obsession or false self-identity you've clung to for years. Whatever it is, now's the time to write it down or draw a picture of it (think kindergarten here!) and let it dissolve like sidewalk chalk in the rain.