Think of what it feels like to wear tight shoes. Not so good. No matter how cute or dapper they are, secretly you can’t wait to get them off. And when you do, you’ll probably rub your feet to bring them relief, to get some circulation back… Ahhhh…
When we are stressed out, our muscles and fascia clench and tighten. (Fascia is the connective tissue that covers and holds our muscles together). Our muscles become, in effect, like tight shoes around our nervous and circulatory systems. And, circulatory and nervous systems are meant to…
Yes? you in the back?
Circulate… flow… and move…
Ding ding ding ding! Brilliant.
When cars can’t circulate, we get traffic jams. In our bodies, traffic jams feel like knots. Like spasms. Like headaches. Like pains in the neck. Basically, like OW!
That’s because tight muscles squeeze our blood flow and irritate our dear nerve endings. No one likes to be pinched and irritated, and nerves are no exception.
Thing 1 to do, or rather NOT do, is to feel bad about it. Feeling bad about feeling tight and tense is like adding insult to injury.
Remember, our bodies are programmed to contract and clench when we sense that something is wrong… (Now, whether something actually IS wrong, is a whole ‘nother matter, but for today let’s just stay with bodies and what to do when we are wearing our muscles like tight, albeit cute, shoes).
Also, forget about telling yourself to “Just relax.” Really. Don’t. It’s annoying. You would have if you could have. ‘Cause you’re smart like that.
Thing 2. Notice kindly. That is, notice and be kind about what you find.
Close your eyes and do a little body scan. How are things in your body right this second? Any sluggish traffic? Any jams? (Pay special attention to the shoulders, head and neck, and the low back/butt as these are major traffic rotaries in the body.)
Any places of tightness, discomfort or pain?
See if you can notice your places of tension with all the kindness in the world. Maybe even say “hello,” as if you’re just meeting this thing for the very first time. Treat your tension like an interesting person you don’t know. Stay curious. Stay kind.
Channel the Dalai Lama if you have to. Channel Glinda the Good. Find someone who is the picture of kindness and patience, and be that person onto yourself. Go ahead. Make them up. Borrow them from a movie or story.
Sometimes it helps to put your hand on the place of ow. Ahh… (I swear I just heard your body saying, “Thank you for noticing.”)
Thing 3. Breathe.
I love this one. Know why? Because, dude! You’ve already got that one pretty much covered! You’ve been breathing without a second thought for how many years now?
But for purposes of easing tension, I would like you to give it a second thought.
When we are stressed out, we take short, barely-getting-by kinds of breaths. They get us by, for sure, but you know what? Short breaths mean that your neck muscles have to pinch hit to help you breathe. And helping you breathe is not your neck muscles’ main function.
Neck muscles are meant to support your head. And to help it do all sorts of spectacular things like turning, bending, and extending… Neck muscles would really rather be turning to get a second look at loveliness (ooh ahh ooh ahh!). Or tilting your head back to gaze at a starlit sky (oooh!). Or bowing your head in a moment of reverence.
Good news: There IS an organ/muscle that gets super excited about helping you breathe. In fact, you could say that this organ’s life mission is to help you breathe.
“You, meet your diaphragm.”
There is nothing your diaphragm would rather being doing than breathing for you. Think about that for a sec. Breathing… for… you! Wow.
“Nice to meet you, Diaphragm,” you might be saying, “and, I know you’re inside me somewhere, but where exactly are you?”
Put your hands just below your ribs, where your solar plexus or gut is, and take a deep belly breath in. Did you feel your hands rise? Right there is where your diaphragm is.
When my clients are stressed out and I notice that their thoughts have not stopped spinning, I sometimes place my hand there lightly and invite them to picture a balloon right there, under my hand…
Go ahead and try it now, if you want: when you inhale deeply, you will feel the balloon expanding, filling up with air. When you exhale, you are letting all the air out. Take a few gentle, deep breaths… In and out… Innnnnn and Ouhhhhhht. Ahhhh…
When you’re stressed out, remember your balloon, say hello to your diaphragm, and let it do what it loves to do for you.
Thing 4. Drink a tall glass of water. (Room temperature is best).
Remember, circulation! Nothing like water to move things, and to keeping them lubricated.
Plus, drinking water will make you pee and peeing is your body’s brilliant way of getting rid of things that no longer belong. (Also, an added perc this time of year? Taking a bathroom break means you get a break from the noisy relatives.)
I can’t wait to see you again. And if you live in or will be visiting Boston, yes, there are still openings for massage sessions this Saturday, 27 November (yep! after Thanksgiving).
Also, the aardvark (of Aardvark Essentials thankyouverymuch) and I have put our heads together and come up with That Time of Year Potion Sets. There’s one called Holiday Sanity. Another called Holiday Comfort. And another called Celebrate. We think you will LUV them!
Until next time, lovely peoples, wishing you all the ease in the world,
Heidi E. Fischbach
Massage therapist, mood detective and potion-mixer
You have a body. You have a mind. But they don’t always get along. I can help.
Do you know someone that would love my massage therapy and mood detective work? I’d love it if you forwarded this entry to people you love. [And, mwah!]