Can Tension Actually Help You To Relax?

The other day, during my work day, I got the phone call from hell.

A phone call that left me feeling tense and stressed out.

Not unusual, is it? I think a lot of us can feel
tense and stressed when at work, depending on what is going in.

My tension came from an unpleasant interaction over the phone,
with someone – let’s call him “Robert” – who had asked me to do
some writing and content creation for them….then had switched
gears a couple of times, so the work I had already completed was
down the drain.

Then, on the call, “Robert” told me they were canning the project
and wouldn’t need my help.

All of this without paying me a dime, mind you.

And to top it off, this guy was pretty darn rude about it on
the call. Completely atypical of the interactions I usually have
with clients or colleagues, who value my input and expertise.
And very different from other interactions I have had with this
organization, which have all been positive. They have included
me in several significant projects and have been quite gracious
in their appreciation for my input.

I kept my cool on the call. I’m a professional. But inside I was

First of all, I was angry with myself. I could see this coming
a few weeks ago, and I ignored the signals. I should have been
more proactive in pushing them to make a decision, and to confirm
that they were going to pay me a deposit for initiating the work.

second, I should have been smarter about getting into this
project in the first place, and perhaps asking more direct
questions about what they wanted to achieve and how committed
they were to this project.

But most of all, I was just plain ol’ pissed off – not so much
because the project was cancelled, after all the meandering and
wasted time…but because of the rudeness of the interaction.

Do you think I will be doing anything for “Robert” in the
future? You can bet my answer is “NO!”. I’ve got other fish to
fry, and other people and organizations who are asking for my
help and input.

Anyways, immediately after the call, I allowed myself a minute
to take stock. I rehashed the call, then made a few decisions
about (a) how I will handle similar projects in the future; and
(b) how I will interact with (or not interact with) this
organization in the future.

But I was fired up! I realized that just rationalizing through
this would not be enough to calm myself down, and allow me to
re-focus on my work and priorities for the day.

It’s rare for me to feel this way – to get so worked up over
something that I can’t calm myself down with some rational
thinking and a few deep breaths.

When this happens, I know I need to do something physical.

Physical activity provides a splendid release of tension and
stress. Any type of movement or activity can help, like doing
some cleaning or organizing, or taking a walk. Even better is
more demanding activity, like going for a run, or (one of my
favorites), hitting the heavy bag for some rounds.

(I bet you can guess whose face I pictured on the heavy bag,
as I sweated through several rounds of punching and kicking.)

However, there is one type of activity that is truly my go-to
whenever I’m feeling tensed and stressed: stretching and
deep breathing.

Together, the two are un-matched in helping you to calm down,
go inside, quiet the mind and re-focus on what is most
important to you.

To be even more specific – there is a particular way of
stretching that amplifies the benefits.

Most people think that stretching is done by relaxation only –
losing tone and tension so that you can move further into the
stretch. This is true, but only partially.

Actually, the most effective way to stretch is with a
combination of relaxation and tension. Not only does this help
you to improve your flexibility more quickly and easily. It
also provides you with a much more effective way to work out
any tension or kinks.

(I teach this principle, as well as a number of wonderful
stretching, strengthening and flexibility exercises – in
Dynamic Flexibility: The Secret to Healthy, Pain-Free Joints,
Limber Muscles and Maximum Mobility

One of the little understood and rarely taught keys to
improving your flexibility – quickly and easily – is to combine
effective flexibility exercise with coordinated breathing AND
coordinated tension and relaxation as you move through the
different positions of the exercise.

This type of approach helps you to relax. It helps you really
“feel” your body — the muscles, ligaments and joints, the tight
spots, the areas where your stress typically takes up residence
(and we all have those specific areas, like shoulders or lower
back, where stress and tension seem to infiltrate and take over).

This enhanced body awareness helps you to establish control.
Control and relaxation through proper flexibility training
translate to greater control mentally and emotionally – and
enhanced calmness, mental clarity and focus.

I first learned about this way of stretching when I trained in
the martial arts. We used this principle with selected stretches,
some which we did ourselves, some which we did with a partner.
These exercises helped us to radically enhance our flexibility,
in particular to help us kick higher and with more force.

However, you can apply this same principle to virtually any
stretch, for any area of your body.

It works with traditional stretches, like toe touches, seated
stretches, and so forth. It also works with calisthenic exercises,
such as pushups, cat stretches, and knee bends.

Well, back to my story. I allowed myself to work through the
negative feelings from “the rude phone call” by stretching,
tensing and flexing through a basic set of exercises. Then I
took some nice, deep breaths…and I got back to work. And my
afternoon of work was quite productive.

Give it a try yourself and you’ll see what I mean. Or better
yet, hop over to the Best Breathing Exercises website and get
a copy of the “Dynamic Flexibility” program.

You Can Do It!


“Best Breathing Exercises: Transform Body Mind and Spirit with
Dynamic Energy Exercise!”

Copyright, Karen Van Ness, 2013

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