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Have you ever watched a tight-rope walker? Maybe you noticed the performer carries a balance bar. Ever so carefully he moves the bar from side-to-side in order to keep his balance Now life is something like this for us. You and I are negotiating the difficult, if different, courses of our lives.
Life means action and action means other people. Other people mean that there will be some friction, and friction often results in stress. Some of this stress is helpful and positive. Some of it is negative and harmful. We badly need our balance bars.
Many of my colleagues who are care providers at Hosparus suggest that the management of tension should be holistic, should affect all our parts. Therefore it should be approached:
• physically – by getting physical exercise and eating a balanced diet;
• emotionally – by expressing all our significant feelings at the time we are having them;
• socially – by phoning a friend, having a party, getting together with people we like;
• intellectually – by feeding the mind with reading, doing a crossword puzzle, attending a lecture; and
• spiritually – by admiring the beauty of the world, listening to music, by spending 10 minutes a day meditating or praying.
The practice of emotional openness will eventually result in two valuable abilities: We will learn to identify our negative stressors and we will be able to reevaluate them. Stress is like the tension in a violin or a guitar string. If it is too tight, it will snap. If there is no tension, there is no music either.
And so, stress in itself is neutral. However, our reactions to it, based on our personal beliefs and values, are what give a stressor either a positive or negative power over us. The biological computer of the body often helps us differentiate. However, if I examine my daily life by listening to and learning from an open expression of my emotional reactions, I will slowly locate and learn to identify the negative stressors in my life.
Under every emotion lies an attitude: toward success, conflict, expectations, time, perfection, pleasing others and so forth. However, I can uncover and explore these attitudes only if I am willing to experience and to express my feelings. I’ve got to welcome, acknowledge and express these feelings before I can learn from them.
So have your feelings, own them and express them. And above all, learn from them. This will balance the tension.
Bob Mueller is vice president of development at Hosparus. The views expressed in this column are those of the writer.