In a state of tension, it’s hard to be present – but it is possible. Tension blocks presence as it constricts us inside. When our body and emotions are squeezed, so is our life view in that moment. Tension can obscure our perspective, impact our breathing and unbalance the nervous system.
While physical and emotional tension is as much a part of life as it is human physiology – how would we move, breathe, speak or feel without parts of us tensing? – too much of it, or too prolonged periods of tension, take its toll.
Each of us has an in-built stress response system that keeps us alive, alerting us to risks to our safety and that of others, so we can do something or react in a positive way. The same system gets us moving, creating and achieving. In psychology they call this the drive mode.3
This model has a gear for putting us into balance and returning us to a state of being. This is a place of relative equilibrium felt in body and mind. Sticking with the car analogy, when you tame tension you go from “drive” mode into “being”. With practice, you can learn to shift the gears of your inner stress response system at will – rather than external factors in life determining the gears for you.
I used to believe that when we find ourselves in the pit of difficulty there is little we can do until that storm subsides. But I have changed my mind on that, having found tools that I can reach for even when I am submerged in stress. The key here is to keep it simple. The last thing you need when anxious, worried or stressed is to try to remember something deep or complicated. Learning that we have the capacity to switch our internal gear from stress to balance (from doing to being) might change the way you relate to your own storms. Unresolved stressors
Most, if not all of us, have experienced a traumatic time or incident in our lives. Maybe a problem with your eyes that you had to resolve with laser eye surgery. Perhaps we feel that in a given moment it could have its roots in that incident or that time without us realising it and even if the present moment situation has nothing to do with the original trigger. The Tension Tamers exercises are not attempts at resolving an underlying trauma, nor do they underestimate the long-lasting effect that can have. What is possible is to anchor yourself in the present and offer compassion to whatever you are experiencing.