I figured out a few years ago that I carry my stress in my jaw. It’s an ache that comes from constant jaw-clenching, and it’s my body’s way of telling me to lighten up or take a break. And it’s been talking to me a lot lately.
The problem is, I don’t have enough going wrong to warrant that kind of constant tension in my jaw. I make stress when there is none, or at least when there is very little.
Maybe it’s from fretting about things not being perfect, which they don’t need to be. Maybe it’s from pressuring myself to get everything done ASAP so I can feel calmer near the deadline but then end up doing all the slackers’ work at the last minute, too, so I never find that calm I was hoping for. Maybe it’s from adding things into my life that I think others expect from me but that I don’t actually want to do. Maybe it’s from feeling more important the more work I have to do, so I make more work for myself than is actually necessary to get the job or project done.
Being constantly stressed is likely a combined product of my personality (a good thing!) and my insecurities (not such a good thing). It’s been a problem all my life, and I’ve managed to cope in the past in various ways. But my coping mechanisms aren’t working for me in my newest season of life. It’s time to try something else. Here are some of my ideas of things to try out:
- Let go of the inessentials. Ask myself “what on my list of things to do actually has to get done?” Not what I would love to get done if I had the luxury of time, nor even what I’d like to get done, but actually what needs to happen today (or this hour), and what can I do to make that happen? Let go of the other stuff, even if it’s good stuff.
- Ask for help. Get some things off my plate by asking others to do them. Learn to be ok with their way of doing it if it’s different from mine.
- Rest. In the cracks of my schedule that don’t demand anything from me, how can I give back to myself in ways that are restorative? For me that probably means journaling or blog-writing, taking a power nap, stretching my legs on a quick walk around the block, or tweezing my eyebrows (something I find inordinate amount of pleasure in). Imagine how much de-stressing I could accumulate if I did those things instead of fill each free moment with a visit to Facebook.
- Relax the jaw. When I become aware of the tension in my jaw, I can consciously relax it. This kinda has a fake it ’til you make it appeal because making a change to this symptom actually helps alleviate the cause. Or maybe I just think it does. But hey, placebo effect actually helps lots of patients recover from psychologically-induced ailments.
The problem with “resolutions” like this is I often forget about them in the throws of life. I hope that I can find a way to plaster them on the forefront of my mind without them being obnoxiously posted somewhere in my home. I hope that you can, too. Unless, of course, you love post-its all over your bathroom mirror. In that case, all the power (and none of the stress) to you.
image from energepic.com on pexels