There, push your shoulders back. Unclench your jaws. Sit straight, but relaxed. Watch your breath. Take a sip of water. Gently rover your eyes around wherever you are sitting and reading. Observe the light in the room. And smile a little. Does it feel good?
I wish I told this to myself often and did it without any big trigger warnings. In our fast-paced world, stress has become an unwelcome companion for many of us. We often carry this tension within our bodies, unknowingly subjecting ourselves to various health issues. Our workplaces, where we spend a significant portion of our lives, can be particularly conducive to accumulating stress. It’s no different for those of us sitting in classrooms, tight in attention but anxious and stressed while at it.
There have been days of late when I hit the bed with the absolute satisfaction of doing really well at work. I often receive some compliments for standing unfazed in the face of pressure or short deadlines. When I took these compliments to my head, it only started to pile more pressure within. Without a good outlet for this kind of tension, often I catch myself slouched at my desk, muscles tightened, eyes narrowed and fingers numb from typing away.
When stress takes root in our lives, we tend to internalise it, manifesting as physical tension. Our bodies become repositories of stress, leading to headaches, muscle tension, backaches, and even more serious conditions such as hypertension and compromised immune system responses. Ignoring this silent cry from our bodies can have long-lasting consequences, affecting both our well-being and productivity. I find more and more colleagues and friends becoming susceptible to these symptoms in their mid-20s and early-30s. And to think of it, I always wondered why my working parents kept complaining of body aches in their 40s, while we define old age as something after 60s only!
While I can’t shirk away from the tasks assigned to me, I can become mindful while I am at it. And most of us, pursuing whatever goals we have, cannot really afford to move away from our places or work or study. But maybe we can afford to spare a few moments every half an hour to reset our body and mind.
Mindfulness offers a powerful antidote to the accumulation of stress within our bodies. By cultivating awareness and paying deliberate attention to the present moment, we can begin to unravel the tension that plagues us. Mindfulness encourages us to observe our thoughts and physical sensations without judgement, allowing us to respond to stressors with greater clarity and composure.
So, after much thought and observation I have arrived at some time-test techniques to make my work a little more enjoyable and my body a happier place for my soul. These are some of the things I have started doing of late, and if it appeals to you, maybe you can try it too?
I write and reflect everyday to see what are my triggers for tension. It helps me develop my self-awareness.
Every morning, before I begin work, I set my intentions to be present and compassionate towards others as well as myself.
I try and practise mindful transitions between tasks, taking deep breaths to let go of tension.
Every half an hour I do body scans. I check for tightness in my shoulders or jaws. I remind myself to unclench immediately.
Despite whatever be my state of mind, I try to dissociate from my stress and cultivate mindful communication by actively listening to my colleagues and friends.
I try my best to create a serene workspace by decluttering and minimising distractions.
Like clockwork, I take mindful breaks, going for walks or just heading out to stare at the trees and the sky.
Whenever I take a break for lunch or to have a cup of coffee or tea, I try to be fully mindful of every morsel and sip.
In small, but sure steps, I find myself going to bed without any tension in my body. I unwind during the commute back home by observing the world around me and detaching myself from the day at the office. This way, I am learning to not internalise any tension, while being in the midst of it. Maybe someday, even that tension will wash off my being like the proverbial water drop on the lotus leaf.