The Surge, the Sea Turtle, and a Key to Happiness
How many women do you know who would say they are stressed out and overwhelmed? Would you be one of them?
Even if you don’t think you’re stressed out, a quick scan of your body would probably reveal some places of tension – especially in your neck, shoulders, or lower back. It just happens, sneaking up on you, as you try to hold all the parts of your life together.
(You know – the bills, the shopping, the meal prep, the kids, the chores, the marriage, the career – trying to feel like you’re on top of it all)
Experts tell us some stress is normal and useful – it can act like a catalyst to help us respond and keep moving towards our goals. A little fighting spirit can help us get through challenges. Like a rubber band, it isn’t much good when it’s limp, but it serves a purpose when it’s stretched a little, right?
But, unfortunately, in today’s world, women, in particular, tend to stretch themselves too much. You really do feel like you have to manage all the areas of your life – and well! You unconsciously grasp and struggle, trying to hold everything all together, avoid having everything fall apart, and, God forbid, look bad!
I know what it’s like! I’m definitely a grasper…trying mightily to keep everything on an even keel and looking good (and under control)!
On my recent vacation, Mother Nature gave me a little lesson, though. While scuba diving, we were caught in a couple of strong surges. I immediately felt anxious and out of control. I struggled to maintain a semblance of balance. And then I looked around at the sea turtles. The same surges were moving them, but they weren’t paddling frantically to right themselves. They weren’t struggling at all. They simply relaxed and were moved back and forth by the surge.
Later, I watched these turtles at the water’s surface, waves crashing into the rocks and shore. The turtles, being moved by the waves, but not tossed about. Never once did I see them paddling to avoid the wave or to keep everything together. Not once did I see any of them slammed into the rocks, either.
What those sea turtles taught me is to relax, to allow myself to ‘go with the flow.’ I understood, deeply, that the more I try to keep things ‘right’ the more tense I get – and that isn’t usually helpful.
Of course, turtles get to swim all day and you don’t. But you can take mental vacations and swim. The tools to do this might look like this:
First, you gotta slow down, stop even. Take a few good, deep breaths. Let your awareness move from whatever is going on in the world around you to what’s going on inside your body.
Begin to notice where you’re holding tension, where you feel like your muscles are grabbing or grasping or pulling tight. A lot of the time, we’re not even aware of how tense we are, how much we’re holding on to. (Common areas are neck, shoulders, chest, and belly). Your grasping indicates a situation that’s a ‘surge’ in your life – something you may feel is out of your control.
Notice what out of your control ‘situations (surges)’ you’re facing and how you’re trying to cope with them (I notice I tend to clench my teeth when I’m angry – biting back angry words – or worse, trying to avoid biting someone’s head off).
Most likely, there are several situations that feel too important to just let go of. But are there one or two that (since you have no control, anyway) you could loosen your grip on? Where are you struggling hard to keep everything all together, even though you’re not in charge of the surge?
A great benefit to this practice is the more you recognize what situations don’t require so much struggle, the happier and healthier you’ll feel!
A little stress will certainly help you get things done, but like that rubber band, too much stress and the band will snap. Learning to loosen your grasp on things you can’t control lessens your stress and makes you much more fun to be around. Imagine yourself swimmin’ with the turtles – and go with the flow!