Monday, December 27, 2010

How Relaxation is like Grief (Don't worry, it's all good)

If there is one thing that 2010 has taught me, it's how to respect the rest. How to honor the process of relaxation. This lesson comes on the heels of 2009, a year that was all about loss (a few relationships, some financial investments, and my vision of what I'd be by 30 (I'm still not 30)). Of course, all happens for the best, and both these challenging years have catapulted my growth as a human being unlike any other. Interestingly, I've realized that both relaxation and loss have a lot in common (at least for me).

Bear with me here...I haven't totally worked all the logic. But here are some parallels and some intersections I've noticed between the two.

1. In the most positive sense, loss is about letting go (again, I'm only speaking from my personal experience, so some of this may not feel right for you, esp if you're in the midst of it). Most of the time we don't choose to lose because it's painful.

2. But, in the end, in loss, we grow. Be it through its lessons, or the space it creates for newness, we are usually not less, but more because of our loss.

3. Relaxation, literally, is about releasing. It's about letting go. For me personally, my journey to really relax (and I mean beyond a massage) but to relax so I feel every cell in my body dance with ease, joy, lightness, looseness - this type of relaxation, getting there, is messy. Think about when you go on vacation, it usually takes a few days to get into a different rhythm right?

4. When we are relaxed, we are open, we are positive, and this yields growth. When we are stressed we're in fight or flight. This means our focus is narrowed, we are less likely to take on challenges, we are less social, and so on. Relaxation means we're in flow with the universe and can find treasures in the second.

Not sure I'm making sense but will continue...

This year was a biggie for me. Lots of things I'm proud of...lots that kept me busy...such as: finishing my masters, creating one of the largest conferences for women entrepreneurs, and moving into a new home in NYC. All this kept me plenty tense and taking time to chill actually felt bad. Even though I knew it was good for me. It got a little ugly.

If I were to paint a picture of Stella trying (in process to) relaxing it would be a flurry of stuff: I'd be wrestling a force, blindfolded, unable to see, tumbling around in a room that looks like home but is completely unfamiliar to me. I'd be hot and cold. I'd be uncomfortable. I'd be guilty and lustful, pure and clear. I'd be fidgety and still. I'd be bouncing between Heaven and Hell. I'd be black and white. I'd be depicted as confused and disoriented, yet in the perfect place. I'd be wriggling around, like a round peg in a round hole thinking it's a square. Not very relaxing is it?

But what I learned this year, and just realized about 15 minutes ago, is that achieving relaxation (especially during intense times) take time. On Saturday mornings, for example, when considering my day blocked off for nothingness, I'd begin to feel panic or guilt about all the things I could be doing, should be doing, people I could be with - I'd go through a process similar to the stages of grief- until, at last, with time, and through the journey, kicking and screaming, and with the coaxing of good friends, I'd achieve acceptance, release, and stillness.

Five Stages Of Grief (source: MHMatters) and Maybe Relaxation

1. Denial and Isolation.
-At first, we tend to deny the loss has taken place, and may withdraw from our usual social contacts. This stage may last a few moments, or longer.
-At first, I tend to deny that I'm as stressed as I am or that I really need to chill. I also, at the same time, feel the need to isolate. Hide under the covers. And turn off all communication devices.

2. Anger.
-The grieving person may then be furious at the person who inflicted the hurt (even if she's dead), or at the world, for letting it happen. He may be angry with himself for letting the event take place, even if, realistically, nothing could have stopped it.
-Yep, I'm usually angry at myself for letting myself get to this state. Stella, why don't you take steps to prevent this? You shouldn't be working so hard.

3. Bargaining.
-Now the grieving person may make bargains with God, asking, "If I do this, will you take away the loss?"
-"God, please help me. I'm exhausted! But I have so much to do. So I'll just take this time to chill because a) I deserve it and b)I promise to be more productive tomorrow."

4. Depression.
-The person feels numb, although anger and sadness may remain underneath.
-"Shit. Isn't this supposed to feel good and fun? I'm bored. Why am I spending this time debating whether what I'm doing is what I should be doing or rewarding enough?"

5. Acceptance.
-This is when the anger, sadness and mourning have tapered off. The person simply accepts the reality of the loss.
-"Okay, I'm feeling the blood come back to my soul. Ahhh, yes. This is what it feels like. Normal. Balanced. I just needed time."

Hope some that of made sense. And that it was positive.

Happy New Year!

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