I’ve been seeing a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) doctor for some months together with a friend here in Shanghai. Today he told my friend that her energy level has risen up to the stomach, which is good, but now it has to come up to the head. “You have to reduce your stress level”, the doctor said, putting some acupuncture needles in her feet, but not giving any further advice on how to reduce the stress.
Later she asked me “So shall I just go home and sit in my sofa reading books all days, or what?”
I think this is a problem many of us share. We can clearly see sometimes that we have to reduce the amount of tasks to be done, to not be overwhelmed or too stressed, but that’s not enough. My Stress Coach teacher and world known expert on Mental Training, Lars-Eric Uneståhl, talks about two different types of stress in our bodies. One is the tension we get when we perform something. If we climb a mountain our leg muscles will be pretty tense after a while or if we try to solve a huge problem our brain will be tired.
“Stress is not harmful at all. What is harmful is the lack of recovery.“
Since we don’t pay attention to the amount of recovery that is needed every day to be in balance, we produce another kind of stress. That is the basic tension that we have in our body even when we are not performing anything at all. There has to be a small basic tension, because even when we sleep there are autonomous actions in our body that requires energy and produce motion. But unfortunately we go to sleep with tense muscles around our eyes, in our cheeks, stomach, neck, legs and so on. There is this unnecessary tension that we have no use of, a tension that only stops our normal body functions to heal and repair itself.
But there are a lot of things we can do to help our bodies and minds to relax and let go of this unnecessary tension. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Take three deep breaths 2-3 times a day. Concentrate on your diaphragm and fill it with air. Keep your breath for some seconds and let go of it. Make sure that you empty your lungs completely and let there be short moment of stillness before you take the next breath. Don’t overdo this, because it can make you dizzy. Three breaths can be enough to make your body calm down.
2. Meditate on your body. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine strait. Close your eyes and start to concentrate on your different body parts. Is the feeling in your feet good, bad or neutral? What about your legs – good, bad or neutral? Go through your body and give a statement about each part. Try not to think about anything else but the feeling in each part.
3. Meditate on your breath. Sit comfortably as above and this time concentrate on your breathing. Inhale, in a relaxed tempo, exhale, and count 1. Continue like that until 10 and do it all over twice. Try not to think about anything. Just enjoy being.
4. Progressive Muscular Relaxation (PMR). Here I think the best thing is to find a recording that can guide you through the body. The idea is to tense and relax a muscle at a time to learn how to control each muscle and be able to make it relax by will. Usually we have no idea how to relax our right calf muscle for example! Google Progressive Muscular Relaxation or try this very short one from Orrion: Progressive Muscular Relaxation
5. Be mindful about something you do several times every day. For example washing your hands. Each time you wash your hands you give yourself the time to concentrate fully on the experience. How does the water running over your hands feel? Slowly rub the soap into your hands and enjoy the feeling. Just be in the moment. This also gives your body a moment to lower its basic tension.
If you have serious troubles because of your stress you should of course also talk to your doctor!
Remember that you have probably built this basic tension up to this level for years, so don’t expect to be completely relaxed after a few minutes of meditation! It takes time to learn how to relax.
I’d be happy to hear your comment on this! And if you like what you’ve read, please share it!