Sunday, November 4, 2007

Treating Our Tensions

Tension is a knot in the pit of the stomach, a pain in the back, a headache, the inability to relax, a stiff neck, and a dozen other things.
Young Woman Lying Down with Headache
Young Woman Lying Down with Headache

But tension also is the ability to perform the necessary functions of life, to engage in recreation, to share life with those we love.

The alternatives are not the presence or absence of tension but the presence in adequate amounts or the presence of too much tension, which can become a destructive force.

The place to begin treating our tension is to understand its sources. Tension comes from two main sources.
  • First, there is internal tension that is a carryover from one's past. It is possible for a person to feel tension when there in no present reason for his feeling. Persons who experience this type of tension usually have learned to feel tense in earlier years and continue to do so, even though there is no apparent reason for it. In order to deal with this type of tension, a person needs to examine his past.

Often as one examines his past, knowledge from the past may heap insight into the present. The person begins to realize that the cause of his tension is learned responses which are no longer appropriate.

  • Second, there are pressures in one's external world with which he must learn to cope. These pressures take the forms of financial distress, broken relationships, close deadlines, and dozens of other factors. Such pressures seem greater today than ever before in history.

Waterfall Lake
Waterfall Lake

The tension in our bodies may be compared to reservoir of water, such as a lake. There is a "feed in" stream and a "drain off" stream. The secret to handling tension is to maintain the reservoir at the appropriate level. Obviously, control may be exercised at the two areas, where tension feeds in and where it is drained off.

A person can seek to alter his life to reduce tension that feeds into it. However, not all feed-in can be controlled. The ideal is for the person to try not to expose himself to a greater degree of stress and accompanying tension than his reservoir can adequately handle.

  • Tension may also be reduced by finding appropriate outlets for it. Each person differs not only in the amount of tension he can adequately handle, but also in the types of activities that are appropriate to drain off tension.

Each person needs to find appropriate outlets for his tension. That is why a hobby can be so important. Vacations can serve as tension outlets, provided they are planned in a way that decreases, rather than increases, the tension a person feels.

The dangers of prolonged, excessive tension are many. Not only is it a threat to physical health; it also can affect a person's mental processes, blurring his logical reasoning. Moreover, it is not uncommon for an overly tense person to create for himself an environment that increases the feed-in of tension.

For example, a person who is overly tense may begin to alienate himself from his peers or his family through bursts of temper or other tension "spill overs." Than a "snowballing" effect takes over. The tense person acts upon his environment and the environment responds, creating situations that serve to increase his tension.
  • The first step in treating tension is to become consciously aware of it. Listen to the body. Feel the tension.
  • Second, consider what action needs to be taken to reduce the feeling of tension.
  • Finally, find an appropriate outlet where excessive tension can be drained off.

Slow me down, Lord!
Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.
Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal reach of time.
Give me, amid the confusion of the day, the calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in my memory. Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep.
Teach me the art of taking minute vacations, of slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to read a few lines from a good book.
Remind me each day of the fable of the hare and the tortoise, that I may know that the race is not always to the swift - that there is more to life than increasing its speed.
Let me look upward into the branches of the towering oak and know that it grew great
and strong because it grew slowly and well.
Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me to send my roots into the soil of life's enduring
values that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.
In Jesus' name, Amen.

From Here to Maturity
by John A. Ishee
images courtesy of All Posters


Anna S said...

I need to apply tension-reducing and slowing-down methods all the time. Otherwise, I tend to be such a crazy, run-around-with-a-to-do-list gal! :)

Mimi said...

Now is the time for you to try to reduce your tension level while you are still young...
before you become habitually stressed out and tense all the time.. like so many people are inclined to be in this hectic world today!!

Cathy said...

Very helpful post, Mimi. I need to learn that some past tensions are "not appropriate now!" Thanks for another thought provoking post. :o)

Mimi said...

it is easy for us to hang on to old problems and drag them back up from time to time isn't it!!!
I think I am the world's worst at worrying and fretting about things that I can do nothing about!!