by Vicy Wilkinson, MA Philosophy, BCC
Having spent the majority of my life until my thirties “stressed,” I feel like I have some expertise in the field beyond all the studying, training, and experience in helping the clients and students I serve. Because of my expertise, I offer this simple advice: let it go. The advice is simple, but HOW to do so is elusive for most of us.
It’s easy to SAY, “I’m going to let this go,” but just because we say it, doesn’t mean our bodies and brains automatically respond and “just let go.” Nope. Not at all. Instead, our bodies have a tendency to tense up tighter – I always feel it in my shoulders and in my jaws – and our brains tend to keep on going over and over whatever it is that has us all stressed out in the first place. If we do immediately let it go, it’s often by distracting ourselves temporarily with something – a task, a cookie or twelve, a conversation, television, music, or a stiff drink. Unfortunately, the stress remains in spite of our distractions and eventually creeps back into our immediate consciousness and there we are again: stressed.
So, what CAN we do to let it go?
To really let stress go, we have to become consciously aware of it so that we can specifically address it in some way and then replace it with something that’s simply not compatible with stress, like relaxation, happiness, gratitude, joy, or love. The key in real stress reduction, then, is consciousness and a willingness to stay present with the stress. Many times, the stress we feel has a very specific message and no matter what we do to relieve the stress, it will come back (again and again!) until we hear, acknowledge, and act on the message it’s trying to give us. Once we’ve heard, acknowledged, and acted on the message from stress, it’s a lot easier to make a choice about how to replace it with an incompatible state of being… and keep ourselves relatively stress-free.