I have been travelling a lot lately and with travel comes all sorts of aches and pains through stress and cramped quarters- whether it be rushing to catch a train, a tight plane seat or a lumpy bed in some strange hotel room.
I couldn’t figure out why I was so tired when I returned from my latest adventure and then I felt it. My shoulders were up around my ears. My body had been in a perpetual state of tightness and contraction for a 24- hour period.
When we are out in the world meeting new people, hearing new ideas, rushing to and fro, our bodies and minds are turned ‘on’. The opportunities to rest are few and far between- a huge contrast to when we inhabit our safe places and have the chance to lower our guard or turn our public personas ‘off’.
My body was communicating to me. It was screaming- you need to rest! You need to drop those shoulders. Shut off! In the end, I was forced to as I came down with a virus.
However, we don’t have to be travelling to experience this pent up, often- times draining, body tension. We could be having a busy day at work, or on the go running errands without a break when the frazzled, tightness sets in.
Recently, a friend had texted me with a million questions (the speed in which her mind was working) about what was happening in my day, only to send an immediate follow up text of ‘Don’t answer those questions- my brain is not working- I am feeling manic and uptight from my day’. She had been teaching two different groups of MBLC participants and had been ‘on’ for nearly 8 hour straight without a break.
Her body was screaming at her and she felt it. She went home and had some chamomile tea, walked her dogs and started to come down.
Our bodies are constantly communicating to us and this communication often reflects the state of our minds. Whether we are tuned in to it or not, mind and body are connected, and at times, our bodies hold tension in a multitude of areas without us even being aware of it.
However, one of the most common areas of tension in the body is the shoulders. If we can remember to touch in for tension in the body by checking our shoulders, maybe we can respond to our needs more skilfully by responding with kindness and taking the time to switch ‘off’, even if it is for only 5 minutes.
One way of doing this is by simply lifting our shoulders to our ears and then dropping them. The motion of dropping our shoulders will emphasize any tension that might be there.
This week’s challenge is to check your shoulders twice a day. Place a loose rubber band around your wrist as a reminder, if you need to. If your body feels tense, take three deep mindful breaths and rub your arms as you would a child when giving a hug. Or maybe, take yourself outdoors for 5 minutes of fresh air. Or make yourself a cup of chamomile tea?
Remember to be kind to yourself!