Something happened to me the other day that made me take a step back and reflect. Something so mundane and simple. Yet out of nowhere, it suddenly shocked me into a deep introspective trance. I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty relaxed person; physically and emotionally. But recently, I’d caught myself in an uptight moment.
Am I really an “uptight” person?
The incident was pretty mundane. It happened while I was baking in the kitchen, which is something I rarely get around to doing, but love nonetheless.
The other night, I had an excuse to whip up some gluten-free chocolate chip cookies for dessert, so I grabbed all of my ingredients and dishes, and took advantage of the special occasion to bake these delicious bad boys:
As my baking began, and I started turning on my handheld mixer, I randomly noticed that I was death-gripping the heck out of my mixer handle! I was squeezing that handle and bearing my weight down into the glass bowl as if it were about to slip out from my fingers if I relinquished any of my might. I suddenly tuned in to how uptight and tense my body felt.
This was my adult “a-ha” moment.
When I was 5 years old, I started taking piano lessons. My mom would pick me up early from school so we could drive 45 minutes every Friday before soccer practice, to attend my piano lessons with Sue. When I would get to Sue’s house, I’d walk over to the piano and clamber onto the piano bench as she’d slide my supporting foot rest under my short, kiddo legs.
All of my music was memorized, so as I would sit and get started, I’d quickly become mesmerized in my memory of the musical score.
A few pages into the song, I’d often forget that Sue was actually sitting next to me…
…until I’d feel a hand on my right shoulder, gently pressing down.
The contact was gentle and un-startling, but shifted my attention to the tension in my neck and shoulders and away from my striking of the piano keys.
It wasn’t until I intentionally released the tension in my upper body that I realized how physically tense I had become.
This was my childhood “a-ha” moment.
When doing enjoyable things such as baking and playing the piano, it is not uncommon for me to become immersed and transfixed in the task at hand.
When “in the groove” of tasks and errands, I often fixate on my list and attempt to focus all of my attention on “checking off the boxes” and, “must get everything done today” mentality. Because… I have a list, and a list cannot be uncompleted when I return home in the afternoon…right??!!
Sometimes I need that gentle hand on my shoulder pressing down, or the startling buzz of mixer blades scraping the sides of a glass bowl for me to redirect my focus:
- Am I stressed?
- Am I carrying tension?
- How uptight do I feel?
- Do I need to “zoom-out” and re-balance my mindset?
Which actually makes me think of the old TV show, The Dog Whisperer:
I loved watching the host of the show, Cesar Millan, break the ingrained habits of scared or dangerous dogs. During the heat of the dog’s most intense behavior, Cesar would sharply “SH!” the dog, and briefly jab them in their chests. The dogs would almost looked stunned for a moment. I enjoyed watching the recoil effect that would suddenly take place as their physical tension and aggressiveness would diminish.
Their tails would deflate, muscles loosen, and attention refocus.
Cesar recognized the importance of interrupting stressful moments in order to redirect attention toward better behavioral change.
OK, so while I’m not a dog….
…I still appreciate those “SH!” reminders to pause and recoil.
- Am I too hyper-focused on something causing me anxiety and stress?
- How do I treat others during this time?
- How does it affect my own body and mood?
Life gets busy and continuous. Once my morning starts, I become almost robotic-like and mesmerized by working through each leg of my daily routine, one step at a time.
- I lose perspective of my stress level
- I disconnect with the physical tension I carry in my upper body and how uptight I feel
- I become hyper-focused on certain tasks at hand and forget about the effects my behavior has on those around me
If I don’t encounter these “a-ha!” moments naturally in my day, I’ll often forget to self-reflect.
An old friend of mine from Graduate School once told me her Red Light meditative exercise:
Throughout the course of her day, she would take opportunities while stopped at red lights, to pause and reflect inward. Some of her reflections would be brief, while others offered her the ability to truly spend time on self-awareness.
It’s important to find a balance between tasks and our own self-care.
Whether it’s when we bake, play the piano, or are stopped at a red light, giving ourselves a gentle Cesar Millan “SH!” is critical to refocus, relax our uptight physical state, and self-reflect.
Interested in other ways for self-improvement?
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