Stressed? Then why is it hard to choose ease?
Do you resist ease?
I confess. I do.
I do so even though I am fully aware of the benefits of bringing more ease into my life; even though I know specific strategies that can help me to shift from tension to ease in just a moment or two; even though I teach other people how to let go of stress and tension and move toward ease. Despite all this, I still resist it sometimes.
I have been giving this a lot of thought.
In truth, I am MUCH better at choosing ease than I used to be. (Yes – it can be a choice!)
I was a tense, tight, stressed-out mess before I discovered the Alexander Technique over seventeen years ago! Now I know effective ways to direct my awareness and thoughts to release excess tension, and I make it a practice to consciously choose ease as much as possible.
Yet the old resistance still exists. Maybe it always will.
Ease is an underrated quality, and many of us are resistant to the very idea of it – either consciously or unconsciously.
Even as I write this post on ease, I find myself wanting to think hard, concentrate, just get the job done, and use extra effort to hold the pen and put pressure onto the paper (yes, I often write long-hand first!). Old habits die hard. We have the “try hard” work ethic drummed into us from early in childhood. It doesn’t feel like working if I’m not putting effort, aka muscular tension, into it. We’re unconsciously making things more stressful for ourselves.
And yet, we get our best ideas so often NOT at our desks when we are “working.” I’m not the only one who comes up my most creative ideas or solutions to problems when I’m in the shower or out for a walk!
Unlike the woman in the photograph at the top of the page, we actually think more clearly when we are not tensing, tightening, hunching, scrunching or frowning in concentration – i.e. when we are not stressed.
The trouble is, we don’t then get the feeling we associate with working – and certainly not working hard – when we’re not tensing up, contracting our muscles!
I am writing this to remind both myself and you that EASE is NOT the opposite of work.
We can actually do more work, be more productive and creative – and have more fun doing it – when have less tension in our body and more ease. When we’re less stressed, we also won’t suffer from the after-effects of too much tension, such as headaches, back or neck pain.
Ease does NOT mean lazy.
Ease is neutral. You can be lazy with ease or you can work with ease. You can be lazy with lots of tension and you can work with lots of tension.
Most of us resist ease because it is easier (ha!) to go with our habitual stress patterns. Ease may use less muscular effort, but it requires more consciousness, more attentiveness to yourself in the moment, more presence on your part. It requires a willingness to prioritize ease – to give it more value than your desire to “get something done” for instance. This is true SELF care.
The trouble is, if you’re hurrying, you don’t feel like you’re hurrying if you’re not putting a lot of muscular effort into it. If you’re “very busy” you don’t feel very busy if you’re not putting lots of effort into it.
Of course, you won’t. You must accept that ease may feel odd at first, like you’re not working properly, that you’re not working hard – that’s kind of the point!
Ease may seem illusive. You can, however, learn to move toward the ease in any given moment – I promise! Even in acute, nerve-wracking situations, we can learn to make choices that lessen our stress responses and bring about more ease. Ease is our natural state.
The more we are able to choose ease over tension moment by moment, the more evidence we get that work actually gets done, AND we feel better, do better, and ideas come more freely and easily. The more we make ease a practice and a priority, the more our resistance to ease lessens. The more we practice, the more we are likely to remember that ease is an option in times of stress. We may not always choose to go there, but we DO have the choice.
So, give ease a chance. Your back, your neck, your business, your work, your friends, and your family, will thank you!
Do you often feel stressed and tense? Do you feel like you have to “work hard” all the time? Perhaps it is so much part of your normal operating system that you barely register it, until you are utterly overwhelmed? Then maybe you also have resistance to ease. Maybe you have forgotten, maybe you don’t know, that ease is even an option.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please write your comments or questions in the space below.
Photograph © hootie2710 / 123RF Stock Photo.
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I really appreciate your clarity here, and the reminder that ease is not the opposite of effort or work.
Thanks, Amy. It’s something I really had to get clear for myself!
Very good and resonated well. I still seem to end up a bag of nerves despite my pupils all being converted to choose ease. How can this be? I thought that to translate ease etc into others we had to choose ease in ourselves first…. Is it possible to be a nervous A T teacher and manage to produce wonderfully calm results …. can you identify with this conundrum ? I’m also seen from the outside as serene and capable whilst all manner of nervous fireworks are kicking off internally …. xx
Thanks, Sheralyn. I am thinking part of this is your own awareness is so much greater that you can clearly see “all manner of nervous fireworks” inside. This has got to be different from letting those nervous fireworks manifest on a larger, external scale. I don’t get the sense that you are repressing them, rather noticing them and choosing not to act on them. When you notice the “nervous fireworks” (using your expression) what do you do?
Great post Imogen! This is an area I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. Perhaps one idea that could help is that the choice between one’s habitual way of being, and having greater ease, is JUST a choice – you can have habitual, or you can have the ease. Just like you can have the lights off or on. Or in a restaurant you can have pan fried trout with artisanal vegetables and salad greens or you can have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread with fries. You can play George Jones or Mozart. You simply chose which you want – both are potentially there all the time and the actual choice requires virtually no effort on your part.
I love that analogy. I think it works really well. Of course, there will be some situations that make it very hard to flip that switch, but amazingly we do have a choice!