Experience: Death-day, Birthday
The month of May brings me to tears. Within the first two weeks, we celebrate both my father’s death-day as well as his birthday. He would have been 85 years old this month. Since his passing, I have marked these occasions by lighting a candle, looking at pictures, and sharing stories with loved ones. It helps to keep the memories alive. Nearly every year though I find myself resisting the strong emotions welling up. I brace myself to hold back a BIG wave of complex feelings rolling over. The tears eventually ripple through my body and let loose like a dam breaking. As the tears fall, I feel an intense release that leaves my chest and heart wide open. Why do I resist the tears?
The whole thing is messy. My shirt gets wet, eyes turn red, and I have this castaway look as if I’ve just washed up onshore. My stress is unleashed from head to toe in a mysterious cleansing action. In the aftermath comes the mop-up. I wash my face, blow my nose, and breathe a lot of deep breaths. This messy crying stuff is a lot of extra work in my well ordered, busy day! And yet, it is appreciated and quite lovely. It is a reset.
Needleless to say, we live in a stressful time of uncertainty and change. The pressure mounts as we navigate our own challenges while interacting with our family, communities, and nation. Our daily routines are shifting as nearly every societal system and process changes. Now that’s a lot of change at once! When it all gets too overwhelming, sometimes you need to let go and hit the reset button. Letting go is a form of surrender that can reset your body and mind in very healthy ways.
Practice: Let it out!
Hitting the reset button is a skill you can learn. It’s a personal intervention you can do with yourself and with those you are with. Here are some ways to reset–
REGROUP: Find a place and a time to regroup. Every day take a break to withdraw your attention from things that stress you out. That can look like having a puzzle you work on in a corner of the house, taking a quick spin around the block, or hugging your pet.
RELEASE: There are very few things that can uncork the bottle like physical exertion. It doesn’t have to take long and you don’t need to be in shape or athletic. The trick is to vigorously engage the body such that it releases stress. Running, jumping, stretching, or compressing (e.g. yoga)all can help release pent-up energy. Shouting, cheering, and yelling work also! (be mindful of neighbors of course)
RETREAT: Give yourself some relief from the daily routine by taking extended time away. A one day mental/emotional holiday can make a big difference. Put it on the calendar and stick with it. Visit a favorite natural place, take a long bike or car ride to an inspiring destination, or retreat with a journal, book, or online resource. The point is to get away from all of the responsibilities for one or more days.
RELIEF: It’s okay to cry, shake, or squirm. Yes, that’s right! You may be an adult but you are still an animal. Did you know that animals, especially prey animals, let go of anxiety and stress by shaking? You can too by just allowing yourself to let the dam of emotion go once in a while. Resisting it can be damaging. So when you feel like you’ve maxed out, there is relief in sight. Shed a tear or two and let your body send a wave of relief cascading through you. Let go and let it out!