Imagine coming home from a stressful day at work and you desperately need to unwind, de-stress, and fine a way to help your mind let go of the tension it is holding.
What do you do to help yourself get there?
Perhaps you collapse at the computer or T.V. and let your brain numb out as you binge your favorite nextflix show, surf facebook, or check your best news sites.
Maybe you have a glass of wine or smoke a joint.
Maybe you find the strength to chose a healthy less addictive option and make it to a nearby yoga class or gym.
Perhaps you even get a massage or take a nice walk in the evening air.
But what happens when these tricks are not enough?
What do you do when at best these options only provide momentary relief but aren't able to truly relieve you of the inner tension and stress you are carrying.
Should you drink more? Watch more T.V. or surf facebook trying to lose track of time in the hopes of feeling better on the other side?
Perhaps you chose to smoke some more or take anti-anxiety or sleeping medication but end up feeling deep down that you are avoiding some needed self work, just you are unsure what that would be or how it would look like. (This is not referring to individuals who take medication for their specific mental health needs. The above is referring to those that don’t actually need it but end up taking it because they don’t have access to other solutions).
Understandably, when we are feeling stressed, unhappy, or tense we naturally want to get away from these feelings. We desperately look for ways to distract ourselves from them so we don’t need to feel them. Often times we find T.V., work, drugs, alcohol, meaningless conversations, empty relationships, food, and basically anything that can help us get a break from ourselves, our thoughts, and our stress.
However, as we know, these fixes don’t really work; especially in the long run. They leave us forever running from ourselves and our uncomfortable feelings and rob us of the stillness and inner quiet needed to attempt noticing and enjoying the life around us.
But is there a better choice?
The truth is there is a better option. A option that can forever give you the upper hand on handling your stress and your life. You can learn it relatively quickly, get good at it over a couple of days or weeks, and perfect it over a lifetime.
They key is learning how to connect with the stress that your body is holding.
I don’t just mean be conscious that you are feeling stressed and admit it. This is an important step, but just half the game. I mean learning how to actually notice and process the stressful sensations that your body is holding.
Let’s go back to the example of coming home really stressed. Now imagine you find a comfortable chair, sit down, and close your eyes.
With your feet comfortably planted on the ground you begin focusing your attention inwards. You give yourself permission to take as much time as you need and begin noticing any sensations or feelings in your body while maintaining a non-judgmental attitude.
At first you notice that your shoulders feel really tight and heavy, almost as if heavy weights have been placed on them. You can actually feel the tension between your shoulders, neck, and surrounding muscles. Then, despite the intense desire to leave that feeling behind and find any distracting thought to take its place, you find the courage to non-judgmentally hang-out with that feeling for a couple more seconds. As you pay closer attention you start to notice your shoulders softening up a bit and begin unwinding from the tension that they are holding.
After that, you notice your stomach feels tight and stuck and you shift your attention there. A few seconds later almost magically a breath, slightly deeper than the ones previously, naturally comes up and releases with it some of tension you were holding in your stomach. You continue this practice for about 15 minutes, all the while letting your body release the tension it has built up from the day.
You then get up and leave the room feeling as if you have come back to yourself and can now enjoy the rest of your evening.
This is true self care.
Take away points:
- The best way to beat stress is to commit to slowing down enough to actually connect with and feel the stress in your body.
- By knowing how to non-judgmentally notice, be present, and process these sensations you will allow them the opportunity to release.
- It only takes about 15 minutes, but it can change your life.