When you're stressed, it is so tempting to fantasize about being not stressed. You imagine feeling peaceful and relaxed later -- when you get home from work, or when this project is finished, or when this exam is over, or when you get to the beach, or maybe when the kids grow up, or maybe when you retire.
But fantasizing about being unstressed at some other time or place doesn't help you in this moment, right now, right here, in the midst of the stress. And if you don't do something to unstress yourself here and now, there is real risk that that the stress, because you are holding on to it, will become part of you.
Yes, patterns of stress, if not released, seem to get lodged in the body and mind. They can make you tight, jumpy, caustic. They can distort your posture, influence your beliefs about life, limit your ability to listen to others, and add unpleasant tones to your voice. You become a stressful, stressed-out person.
The techniques below are not about eliminating the "cause" of your stress. Nor are they about helping you become a saintly being who never picks up stress and who radiates calm everywhere she goes. (Chasing that ideal is something that can make you even more stressed.)
Instead, they are intended to help you unstress now. They give you something to do as soon as you get stressed, or as soon as you realize that you're stressed, or as soon as your friends tell you that you're stressed. They help avoid getting stuck with the stress. And they help you not pass your stress onto someone else.
For National Stress Awareness Day -- April 16, 2012 -- please join me in taking the vow that the "Stress Stops Here" -- that you will not pass your stress on to anyone else.
To take the vow:
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