How tense are you?tension

Do you recognise any of these symptoms?

• Excessive Tiredness • Insomnia • Bowel Problems • Headaches • Frequent Anxiety • Palpitations • Digestive Problems • Restlessness • Constant Irritability • Trembling • Congested Skin • Restricted Breathing • Sore, Tight Muscles • Poor Circulation • Recurrent Infections

All these symptoms have been associated with stress and tension. How many, how often and how long, will tell you how  much tension you have.

We often seek external means to ease tension such as smoking, drinking, comfort eating, taking pain killers etc. To release the tension sometimes we self-harm or take it out on others. Frequently turning to these ways can make them into habits, and habits are hard to break.

Our body, too, responds to stress and tension by shutting down or speeding up various systems e.g. slowing down digestion, increasing heart rate.
None of these are Healthy Solutions. Eventually they lead to:

  • Dependency e.g. on drink, smoking, comfort eating, pain killers etc
  • Guilt for being dependent on these things
  • Damage both emotionally and physically
  • Relationship problems

When we are full of tension we are of no benefit to others and are harming our own health in the process. We owe it to our self and others to be relaxed. In a relaxed state we feel aware, secure and confident and are able to show compassion to all – including ourselves!

We often think that stress and tension are the result of events and situations,but it can be our response to those situations that actually creates long-lasting stress and tension. With a relaxed approach the same situation can seem very different.

Physical stress may occur after sport, after injury, from incorrect posture, from repetitive strain or from impaired mobility.

Physical tension can also be a reflection of emotional tension which has been held in the body over time e.g. gritted teeth and a tense jaw.

Emotional stress is invariably due to a deep inner sense of ‘un-okayness’ and internal conflict. This underlying ‘un-okayness’ may well be hidden by years of habitual behaviours and personality characteristics attempting to take the original pain and terror away. For example, avoiding conflict, continually making vicious remarks, incessant happiness, denying any sadness, people-pleasing…..

At times we can appear to be held together with emotional tension:

  • The constant effort of doing the right thing.
  • The nagging feelings of guilt, shame, unworthiness.
  • The desperate need to be liked.
  • The continual fear of losing control.
  • The persistent resentment of being pressured by others.

Letting Go

When tension is a habit, bizarrely it brings with it a sense of safety and it can actually feel scary to let go of the tension. It is therefore important to establish a deep inner sense of safety and security before releasing such emotional tension. It is not about trying to ‘get rid’ of certain feelings, it’s about validating and empathising with them .

Massage, Physiotherapy, Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates are among the therapies which can help relieve physical tension.

Emotional stress can be freed by letting go of rigid and unhelpful thoughts. For example,  self-talk such as, “I must do this”, ” I have to do that”, “I can’t not do..” and beliefs such as, ‘I’m only okay if I’m strong and not weak’, ‘if I’m perfect and don’t make mistakes’, ‘if I please & keep others happy and don’t attend to my own needs’. These kind of thoughts reinforce a sense of self as not okay. This builds up tension and often give rise to lots of blame, fury, hurt, embarrassment and hopelessness. And this creates more and more tension.

One way of letting go of the ‘must do’ and ‘have to’ talk is by saying to yourself, ‘I choose to…’ ‘Choosing to’ means there is the option of choosing not to!

Counselling, Arts Therapy, Psychotherapy and The Rosen Method are among the suitable ways to seek support for more entrenched emotional stress.