Why We Hold Stress in Our Body and not coping with stress

This is a topic that I just HAD to write about Strategies for coping with stress!  I have been feeling this in my life and I am getting the nudge that others might be feeling it too.  I catch myself recently holding tension in my body. 

This tension is my resistance to something that has entered my awareness.  It is something that is probably true that I just don’t want to be true.  This resistance causes me pain and thus…the pain is in the resistance you need to shift your perspective.  

Denial of Reality 

Now, there are lots of different types of resistance in our world.  The one I am talking about is only this one.  The one that stems from our desire to deny reality.  We spin around in our heads with what “should” be or what we “wish” things to be.  We think that somehow if we worry or figure things out the reality will be different. 

These are exercises in futility most of the time.  There are things that we can affect.  If there is something to be done or something to be changed…we should absolutely do it and/or change it.  However, the things I am talking about are things that just are, and we can’t affect them, no matter how hard we try.    

Feel it in the Body 

I feel it at many different times in my day.  I can feel it from many different sources.  When I feel this tension in my bodyhave to figure out where it is coming from. 

Finding out where it is coming from is harder than it sounds.  Our society bombards us with images and messages all day long, every day.  If we are moving too fast not only will we miss the fact that we are holding tension due to resistance.

But we will have no idea what is causing it or that we need to let it go.  Not only that, but we can encounter multiple things in our day that cause us stress, and then it compounds.  When this happens, it is much harder to unravel and figure out the causes.    

Awareness is Crucial 

The awareness of this stress is crucial.  So, in order to be aware…we have to slow down.  We cannot be rushing from one thing to another all day long and expect to have awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and body. 

I have found that it is critical to building time into my day to just “check-in”.  How are you feeling?  What thoughts are going through your head right now?  What is going on in your body?  Is there pain?  Is there unease?  (Because “un-ease” turns into “dis-ease”.)   

Causes Illness and Dis-Ease 

This tension and stress cause any number of pains and illnesses.  It is this inability to accept the reality that causes me to hold stress in my neck and shoulders, which causes chronic neck and shoulder pain.  It causes me to hold my body in such a way that my neck and shoulder muscles tense up and pinch nerves. 

It causes me to hold my breath, to tighten my stomach muscles – which causes me to be lightheaded and have digestion issues.  (Granted there are other factors involved in this as well – but that is another blog post – and they are not the root cause.)  The root cause is the stress that I am holding in my body due to resistance.     

I have found that I can begin to hold stress in my body over any number of things.  It can be something that I am watching on Netflix, a social media post, a direct message from someone, a conversation with someone (in person or on the phone). 

It can be a thought in my head, it can be an old belief that doesn’t fit anymore.  I have to figure out what is going on at that moment that is causing me to hold this stress – to be resistant.  

Resistance to the Truth 

I have found that this resistance is usually something that is true, but we don’t want it to be true.  (Even if it isn’t right or isn’t fair…it can still be true.)  It can be as global as politics or as personal as my cousin who was just diagnosed with ALS. 

It can be as simple as someone telling me that they can’t make it to my birthday party or as complex as someone who cannot accept alternative lifestyles. 

Get to Acceptance 

It is key that even though I don’t agree with what is going on, even though I don’t like it, even though I think it “should’ be different…it is.  It just is.  It is happening, it is reality.  I can fight against it and hold stress in my body and make myself sick or I can accept it – mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

  Acceptance is not an agreement and it is not apathy.  I do not have to agree with reality, but if I try to live as though it isn’t really happening, it will cause tension and stress in me that will ultimately make me sick.  

Acceptance is an acknowledgment that we are not in control of it, we are not responsible for it and we can’t “fix” or change it.  It is actually a huge relief. Don’t get me wrong – I am not advocating for anyone to be a doormat. 

If there is something that needs to be done about a situation – like a boundary needs to be set or a truth needs to be spoken…absolutely do it.  What I am saying that is we can make ourselves sick over situations where there is nothing we can “do”.  Those are the things we need to just accept and let go of!   

Acceptance isn’t quick and easy and is usually a multistep process.  It takes time to get there.  It begins with awareness, then goes to compassion and gratitude with a healthy dose of spirituality, and then it morphs into acceptance. 

I have noted in my coaching practice that this process is different for everyone.  Everyone takes different amounts of time and goes through different steps, but it is a process for everyone.           

Let it Go 

After I have figured out what is causing the tension and stress and I have accepted the reality of it.  The next thing I have to do is physically let it go! 

So, in order to let it go…I take several deep breaths.  I like resistance breathing.  Resistance breathing is breathing in through your nose for 4 counts, hold it for 2 counts at the top.  Then, breathe out through your nose, hold it for 2 counts at the bottom.  Use your belly to breathe not just shallow chest breathing.   

Then, I do a body scan to relax all the muscles.  A body scan for me is just staring at my toes and relaxing all the muscles in my feet, going up to my legs, through my bum and hips.  Then, relaxing the muscles of my torso, my shoulders (especially my shoulders – which is where I hold my tension and stress),

Then down my arms, all the way to my fingertips…relax the muscles.  Then, back up to my neck (also where I hold my tension and stress).  I relax my jaw, cheeks, lips, eyes, forehead, and even my ears.  These let go of the stress that I am holding in my body.    

If I don’t have time to do a full-body scan, I at least can soften my eyes, relax my jaw, release my shoulders and hips.  This can be good enough to get me through that moment and later I can do a full-body scan to release the stress and tension. 

Tools for you for coping with stress!  

These practices can save us from chronic pain and illness.   

  1. The slowdown in your day 
  2. Check-in with your mind, body, and spirit  
  3. Discover the cause of the resistance
  4. Get to acceptance 
  5. Let it go mind, body, and spirit 

Questions to Ponder: 

Do you think that people hold tension and stress in their bodies due to resistance to the truth?  Does this happen to you?  Where do you hold your stress?  What do you do to release this tension and stress?