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I’ve always suffered from tension. I’m quite a tense person. I’ve tried hot showers, long baths with red wine, various sitting/lying/standing positions, diet changes… some work, some don’t, most fall by the wayside as life moves on. And I’m left with the same back pain that I had before.

I never used to link my muscle tension with my depression. When I was on anti-depressants for the first time in college and decided to come off them I told my doctor I was feeling much better, and I followed his directions for cutting down my dosage, and later I told him that I had back tension still and he said “If I’d known that I wouldn’t have advised you coming off your meds.” It was the first time that I’d ever even connected the state of my back with the state of my mind. It was a bizarre concept to me!

So now my back is getting at me again, and I have muscle knots in my kneck that feel like extra vertebre, and I’m trying to figure out not just how to deal with them, but also what’s causing them. And I’m linking my muscle tension back to my mental state, and I’m suddenly finding a lot of things that I didn’t think were bothering that I suddenly realised really were.

So here’s the question:
What are you ignoring?

For example:
I have commissions. That’s great. I’ve been thinking of them positively and that’s all very well and good… but they’re later than they should be, and I don’t want to let people down, and I’m scared they won’t like them even though I know they will, and ignoring this and “thinking positive” isn’t helping my stress.
Do you know what *is* helping my stress? Actually working on the bloody things.
Do you know why I don’t do it? Because when I start I suddenly remember that I’m stressed over them and I’m forced to face it, and so I relate working on the projects with being stressed, and so I avoid stress by avoiding working on what’s stressing me.
This doesn’t work!

So stop and actually think about what’s stressing you out, and think about how you’re reacting to that stress. Then think about whether your reaction is actually helping. (Chances are, it’s not.) Then think about what could actually help with the root problem, even if only in a small way.
Like so many problems, it’s easier to just flinch away when you feel stressed. Instead, why not try to use tension and stress as a dowsing rod? Pay attention to your body, and when you feel yourself start to tense up then ask yourself “Why did I just tense up? Is that something I need to deal with?” And if it is, spare some thought for how you can deal with it! And if it seems like a lot of work then remember that it isn’t just muscle tension at stake here, it’s also your own mental health. If being in a bad state of mind can cause increased tension then it stands to reason that dealing with the root causes of your tension can hugely help your state of mind!
(As always, remember that these are my musings on how I feel, and how I try to deal with it. I’m hoping that they make sense, but if you decide to follow them please bear in mind that taking advice on how to reduce tension from someone with muscle knots the size of tennis balls in her shoulders isn’t guaranteed to help!! I hope it does though, for me and for you!)