Take a deep breath. Relax your shoulders; let them drop. Unset your jaw. Exhale. Listen. Unwind. Be still.
About three years ago I chipped my front tooth biting a pen at work. Later, I chipped that tooth again on a piece of pizza– really, just pizza. It turns out, I grind my teeth at night, making the thinner front teeth cracked and weak. I wear a night guard when I sleep now to protect my teeth from each other. I still grind them, it’s just that now the forces are diffused across a broader surface and the damage that occurs is mostly to the guard and not my teeth. Sometimes I wake up with jaw pain.
I started going to a chiropractor last year after experiencing some troubling back and chest pain. I’d never been before so she had to talk me through each step. She checked my posture and alignment, adjusted my back and neck, and sent me for x-rays. Nothing major was wrong, I just have tight muscles and sit at a desk every day with poor posture, staring at a computer screen. I go to see my chiropractor every three weeks now for an adjustment and every single time she has to remind me to loosen up. She tells me to drop my shoulders, rest my neck, relax. Relax.
My body is in constant tension. I actually have to concentrate on letting my muscles release.
If I’m concentrating on a task at work or feeling stressed, my whole body tenses and when I finally extract myself, my neck aches and my backs twinges and my limbs protest at any attempt for fluid movement. Even when I’m resting, my shoulders are pulled up toward my ears, just the slightest bit, and my jaw is tightly set. I crack my knuckles and crane my neck. I have to tell myself to relax, and then focus on letting each muscle loosen and slacken.
It’s as if my whole body is on constant alert, ready for fight or flight, not trusting the world to keep me safe.
Last night, Chad and I were watching an easy-going couple renovate their house on some HGTV show, and Chad said to me, “We’d be like that if we were in that situation.” And I quickly replied, “Oh no we wouldn’t. We want to be like that, but we’re not. We’re stressers. We’re high-strung.”
I think my body is on constant alert, because my mind is on constant alert. What’s going to go wrong next? How can I get everything done? What if…?
Take a deep breath. Relax your shoulders; let them drop. Unset your jaw. Exhale. Listen. Unwind. Be still. Stop worrying. Let go.
I have trouble with these things, so I have to repeat them like reminders, like a mantra. In the end, it comes down to trust, I think. Can I trust that everything will be okay? Can I just God will take of me? Can I trust that if I loosen my grip, things won’t all fall apart? I wonder if things do fall apart whether or not I’ll be able to pick up the pieces again.
So it’s a daily practice for me, in mind and body, to relax, to loosen up, to diffuse the tension I feel, inside and out. I think about my jaw a lot now. I unclench it, wiggle it around, rub the muscles behind my cheeks. I think about my back and neck at work. I pull my head into alignment, move my computer closer so I don’t crane my neck, drop my shoulders. For my mind, it’s different. I have to pause my brain, concentrate on not worrying, not stressing, not assuming the worst. Pray. It’s an almost constant exercise in letting go. Sometimes I am miserable at it, and I panic and ache. Sometimes I succeed and things feel lighter, and I imagine God saying, Good job, let me handle that.
I have responsibilities and passions and deadlines and worries, but letting those things take over mean I don’t have room be flexible, compassionate, easy-going, caring. Worrying pushes faith out of the way to concentrate on itself. It’s unhealthy and unhelpful, so I keep fighting it with my body and my mind.
Take a deep breath. Relax your shoulders; let them drop. Unset your jaw. Exhale. Listen. Unwind. Be still. Stop worrying. Let go. Have faith.