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I have always been a tad uptight, anxious even. For those who know me well, if my parents named me “Pretzel”, no one would even blink an eye. With my cancer history I got away with not having to address my stress very often, as folks just figured I had a right to be totally stressed out, and to a certain extent, I guess I agreed.
The problem with this attitude is even if I have a right to be stressed, my body isn’t going to take kindly to it and it certainly doesn’t help me prevent disease and promote wellness in my life, which is the whole reason I created Consult Colleen.
Knowing that part of my wellness journey needed to include a way to at least improve my constant state of stress, I began to dabble in different wellness areas that I thought may help me to find my Zen. I will tell you right now, it was no easy task, and a bit humorous looking back.
I started with massage. I was thinking that would be the easiest way to passively chill myself out and quickly bring my stress level down a notch or two. I made the appointment and arrived in the office feeling a bit out of sorts and certainly far more anxious than I was to begin with, thinking about the hour long ordeal I had to endure. I’m was sure this was not how I was supposed to be feeling about getting a massage, but nevertheless, I was dreading it. When the introductions were over, I was given instructions on what to do and how we would proceed. As if lying down quietly with a complete stranger rubbing me wasn’t enough, she told me to get undressed. “I’m sorry, what?” Apparently, one does these things in the nude. You’re covered the whole time she tells me, as if that was going to decrease my anxiety level at all. After a few minutes of arguing with myself that this indeed was supposed to relax me, I gave in and got undressed. I lasted on the table approximately 15 minutes and I knew I wasn’t going to make it a whole hour. I was tightening up more and more as she tried to pry the muscles apart to loosen them, even a little. Knowing that this was not the way to go, I ended the session and although somewhat embarrassed, got dressed and left.
Now I have to come up with another plan because I am certainly not any more relaxed. My next concern is that my options are limited because I am such a ball of stress about getting relaxed! I decided Yoga may be the way to go so I researched local studios and off to a class I went. Yoga can be a tad intimidating, for me it’s because of all the quiet and breathing required. I had a new mat and a nifty Yoga outfit, if I do say so myself, and I was prepared to tangle myself up in all kinds of shapes in the hopes of stretching out a muscle or two. It may not be apparent from the massage example, but I struggle with sitting still and being quiet, I think it has something to do with my high anxiety level. If you are familiar at all with Yoga, this is not a good mix.
Everyone was sitting cross legged with their eyes closed…silent. I did my best to cross over my legs which hadn’t been crossed like that since grade school. I didn’t close my eyes, I just couldn’t do it. Instead I looked around to see if anyone had an outfit similar to mine and then I made a conscious list of the Yoga mats in the room that I liked. When the instructor arrived she was happy and cheerful, (and quiet). She welcomed us, talked a bit about the next hour and we jumped right in. She instructed us to lie down on our mats and let our bodies relax. I am already thinking I am going to flunk this class. She said to close our eyes and focus on our breath. I followed her instructions and thought I was going to hyperventilate right there on the mat. If I could relax and focus on my breath I wouldn’t be so stressed out all the time! I lasted less than five minutes, packed up my nifty yoga mat, and off I went in a fabulous outfit I would likely never wear again.
What I learned from this process, and what I hope folks learn from me, is that what works for some may not work for all and that is okay. There is more than one way to skin a cat, (which I would never do, and hate that saying but you get the point). I decided I needed to find another way to decrease my stress and I needed help to do it.
I started to do a great deal of research and read some great posts like this one from Mayo Clinic. I learned that I could exercise and relax using visualization, which I had some experience with before and had enjoyed. I also dabbled in aromatherapy, took some long baths and listened to classical music. I found that looking at certain pieces of art calmed my mind and I loved the calming sound of the ocean.
I relaxed, not in a conventional way perhaps, but it worked for me. I relaxed enough that I gave both massage and yoga another go. (Aside from the breathing, I had enjoyed it!) I worked with a very patient and understanding massage therapist and we went slowly, and now I wish my sessions were longer and I leave feeling great. I didn’t give up and I went at my own pace and that made the difference. There really is more than one way to…well you get the idea.