Stress by habit?

reposted from the old blog. Originally published Feb. 13, 2011

beach_sands_breakersp1013474I just got back from a lovely vacation. It was one of those times when I really did feel the stress melt away. I could look in the mirror and see a difference on my face. Ahhhhh.

Then I came home. Granted arriving the day after a huge ice storm added to the contrast, but the next morning when I woke up in my own little bed I realized I was tense. What was the source of the tension… well, that’s what I’m finding interesting. I couldn’t think what the stressor was. I wasn’t behind on projects or bills. I didn’t need to catch up on voicemail messages or email. No one really was expecting me to be back at work for another day. So why was the relaxing buzz from vacation gone?

I’m wondering if it was habit. Can being anxious or tense from life become a habit? Yes, I think it can. I’m seeing it in myself. And in the past week since returning from the sunny South, I’ve been exploring the idea with friends and clients. Do we carry stress partly just because we’re used to doing it? And if this is the case, what to do?

Well, sorry, I’m not the magic answer lady today. But I do have some ideas… of course 😉

First, there is power in awareness. Just exploring the source of your tension, whether you’re feeling it emotionally or if it’s muscle tension, can be enlightening. I tend to carry tension in my neck and shoulders. But if my muscles are tense when waking up after a restful night’s sleep? No, that’s not right. So I’m trying to explore awareness… and when I notice the tension, I allow myself to relax these muscles often. Before I go to sleep and first thing when I wake up, I allow the tension to release as much as I can. While I’m working, I’m exploring adding small stretching sessions (even just a few seconds of releasing tension) to see if I can retrain these muscles. I want my “normal” state to be the “ahhhh” feeling I had on vacation. I’m hopeful I can accomplish it. But am clear that it took a long time of carrying tension to create one habit, so I’m going to have to work awhile of making this more restful state a new habit.

Some sources of our tensions we may see as “part of life.” But allow me to challenge this idea if I may. Perhaps your source of stress is something that is real and on-going in your life. And likely, I’m guessing this stress is something that is out of your control? And according to a much loved saying, “…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” If you are carrying tension in your body and mind due to circumstances that are beyond your control… I challenge you to begin to let those go too.

Greeting the day feeling relaxed and refreshed gives you an amazing boost. If I can begin my day feeling fully grounded and at peace, how much easier will it be to allow the bumps in the road to pass by without throwing my off balance? And how much will my “vacation” state of mind affect those around me. I love to think that peace is contagious and I think we all might agree that the world needs all the peace we can radiate.

As always… have fun!
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