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Tongue Tied – An Easy Stress-Buster

I love simple tips, those ideas that are so easy I slap myself on the forehead and say “Eeesh!  Why didn’t I think of that?”  For example, the idea of putting lemon or a cucumber in a cool glass of water to make it more refreshing.  The tip I’m about to share falls into this category.

Close your eyes and think about a stressful situation.  Maybe it’s a meeting you dread or a confrontation with a colleague.  (You know, the person who always interrupts you and is sure you are a moron.)  Really wallow in it for moment.  Good.

Now notice where you tongue is.  If you’re like me it is firmly planted on the roof of the mouth, pressing upward.  Notice how your jaw feels tight and your throat is constricted (or at least tense.)  This is a stress indicator and can be easily fixed.

Remove the tongue from the roof of your mouth.  Let it relax.  To do this you will need to unclench your jaw which will also start to unstress your neck.

Simple, right?

But the real magic is what else happens when you let your tongue just rest.  As your neck relaxes so do the muscles in the upper chest.  You can breathe easier.  Think of the stress-free energy working it’s way down your esophagus.  For people with stress-related digestive issues, the very act of relaxing the tongue may help your entire digestive system.

It sounds so simple.  Does it really work?

I find myself, tongue-in-roof, in all kind of situations:

  • When working out and striving to do better than the person next to me
  • Trying to hit a deadline
  • Passing four trucks on the freeway
  • Writing this blog

For me this does work.  It not only helps relax my mouth, it makes me conscious of how I carry stress in my body.  Sure I may need to remind myself 42 times a day to relax the tongue, but by doing so I am signaling my body to relax.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

 

 

The Grind Mind & How to Manage It

Maddie sat quietly as her boss thought through the problem at hand.  After a few moments of silence she looked Maddie in the eye.

“The most troubling thing for me,” the boss said, “is that you dropped the ball.”

Maddie took a deep breath and broke her boss’s gaze.  “To be honest,” Maddie responded, “I followed the procedure we’ve always used.  I didn’t expect there to be a problem.”

The boss leaned forward.  “I pay you to think these things through.  Come up with a plan of attack by tomorrow morning and I’ll look it over.”

Maddie did write up the plan before she left for the evening.  And though her body was done with the work day and safely home, the exchange with her boss played through her head like a bad pop song on a continuous loop.

She kept hearing the harsh words of her boss.  Kept replaying the scene between them.  She did this for hours (while chowing on a pint of Ben & Jerry’s finest).  And when the evening was over she fell into bed an exhausted mess.

Maddie had spent the evening doing what I call The Grind.

No doubt you have done The Grind too.  We all fall into it if we’re not careful.  Believe me when I say this is one tiring and wasteful way to spend your time.

What is The Grind?

It is the mental act of replaying a past scenario over and over, mulling over every moment of the encounter.  You feel the horror/shame/anger/indignation again and again.

I did The Grind once after visiting a make-up counter in Boston.  I was traveling on business and thought a makeover would freshen up my looks and psyche.  The sales clerk took one look at me and exclaimed that my lips were quite thin.  She would just have to work around that.

I spent the next three days thoroughly examining the terrain of my lips, thinking about what she said and feeling angry about it.  She didn’t need to say such a thing, did she?  What nerve.  I spent too many hours wasting my time over the comment.

I wasted my time!

What did all the lip exploration and rehashing do for me?  Nothing positive.  If anything it made me more paranoid about my slim lips.  In other words, it harmed my self-esteem (for awhile).

This is what The Grind does to us.   When have you let a thought run in your brain like a hamster on a wheel?  Have you ever come out of it thinking, Egads! What great insight I’ve achieved!  No, you feel depleted not enlightened.  The continuous negative thought does not serve you.

So here’s my challenge.  Catch yourself practicing The Grind.  Take one minute (a mere 60 seconds) to ponder the thought and your reaction to it.  Really stop yourself.  The world can wait one minute for you reflect.  Take a few deep breaths and ask yourself if The Grind is a productive thought.  If not, let it go.

Easier said than done, right?  But knowing when you’re grinding is such an important first step.  You can fix only those things you are aware of.

Three Techniques to Manage The Grind:

Breathing:  There’s a reason humankind has turned to breath for thousands of years.  It works.  Anywhere.   Anytime.  Start with a deep breath.  Make the inhale large enough that you can feel your ribs expand.  Hold the breath for two seconds when your lungs are at their fullest.  Now slowly exhale through your nose in a steady stream.  Once you’ve fully exhaled wait two seconds and begin again.  Do three times focusing on the sensation that breathing creates in your body.

Writing:  Jot down the thought you are grinding about.  But in true Twitter form, keep it short.  No more than twelve words.  Now put the pen in your non-dominant hand and write it again.  Chances are the level of concentration you’ve used to write with the ‘wrong’ hand will start to lessen The Grind.  If you want to have fun, decorate the paper with doodles or stickers or, better yet, burn it.  With this technique you are taking the sting and bad juju out of the bad thought.

Lean In:   This is the most difficult of the three.  But it will move the negativity through you the fastest.  Focus on the feeling that the The Grind creates.  Now feel it without the story of what happened.  In Maddie’s case it meant feeling anger without running through the exchange with her boss, or how she hated her boss, or how this was another example of her career problems.  She just let the feeling of anger fester within her without a running commentary from her brain.  Amazingly, the anger crested and then subsided.

Note that eating raw cookie dough, playing Candy Crush Saga or watching The Real Housewives of Wherever are not on this list?  Those will distract you but not help ease the emotion you feel.

We’ll talk more about The Grind because it is so insidious.  Watch for it in yourself and in others you interact with.  Keep asking “Does this thought serve me?”  Chances are it doesn’t.

I’d love to hear about your version of The Grind.  Is it hard to control?  Does it ever help?   Please share in the Comments section.

Now I’m going to kick some Candy Crush Saga tuckus, if you don’t mind.

 

 

 

 

Meet Your Inner Stress Bunny

 

Do you have an inner stress bunny who sits with you at work each day?  I bet you do and may not even know it is there.  But there is much to learn for your stress bunny and much you can teach it.

But before we meet your stress bunny I’d like to introduce you to mine.  We go way back.

Meet Harriett.  She takes on many forms.  Today I’m going to focus on one of her most prevalent features.

She has big soulful eyes and moves quickly from task to task.  When someone yells she hops off into a quiet corner, all the while she never stops moving her eyes or nose.  Her goal is to eat as much grass as she can before hopping off to the next task (which is often eating more grass).

If you take a moment to watch Harriett, you’ll see she isn’t just moving quickly, jumping from responsibility to responsibility.  There’s something underlying all that activity.

It’s fear.

Harriett is a fear machine.  She fears that she’s behind schedule.  She fears that she won’t get all her work done.  She fears that others will criticize her.  Most of all she fears that she isn’t good enough.  That she’s one carrot away from the unemployment line – from being found out as a fraud.

Have you ever had thoughts like this?

How often do we let fear dictate what we do?

Over the years I see that the fear bunny has been my daily work motivator.  I didn’t want to be perceived as ‘not good enough.’  While I thought I was giving off the ‘getting it done’ vibe or the ‘efficient’ vibe, I was really giving off the ‘fear/terror/inadequacy’ vibe.

And I didn’t even know it.

You can‘t change a behavior you don’t know about.  Now that I know about my fearfulness, I can catch myself going down that rabbit hole (so to speak).  When I’m fearful I’m not fun to work with because I’m so dug into the task at hand.  I don’t attract positive energy.  And I wear myself out.  The fear drains anything positive out of my job and life.

So if you think you have a stress bunny that is fear-motivated here’s what I’d like you to do.

First, when you’re at work, try to catch yourself in a fear-based thought.  Jot it down and see how many times you have that thought in a day or a week.

Second, give your stress bunny a name.  When she/he starts to act up, say a gentle hello.  You two will become friends, trust me.

We’ll talk more about how to control the fear in your stress bunny in upcoming posts.

If you don’t mind, please share your fear thoughts and stress bunny names in the comments section.  There’s no reason our stress bunnies shouldn’t get to know each other.  (To exchange Christmas cards, at least!)

In future posts, we’ll also explore the other facets of the stress bunny including

  • Busy bunny
  • Ticked off bunny
  • Snarky bunny (my favorite)

In the meantime give your stress bunny a break from the fear.   Think of the energy you’ll both save.