Where do you hold your stress?

The body has many ways to deal with stress. When I was a teen, I noticed that my shoulders rose up to near wrapping around my ears when I was stressed. In my collegiate years I felt the stress more in my back, thinking that it had moved there.  I’ve since learned that what I thought was a shifting of stress from one area to another isn’t that at all. It seems more correct that the shift has been moreso to include new areas for holding stress rather than shifting out of one area to a new area. Huh.

{Here’s a link to an article Debbie Mandel at Intent.com about handling overwhelming stress. I employ many of the same tactics she suggests, and they do work.}

I remember the first time I was aware of a body response to a stressful situation. It was back in 5th grade, when I first starting playing youth league softball. It was my very first time at bat during a game. My stomach was fluttering. I’d never felt that before. What was that? I asked my coach. “That’s the butterflies, you’re just nervous. Take a deep breath and go for it, just like at practice.”

I can’t remember the last time I felt butterflies in my stomach, I get different feelings now when I’m nervous. And I’ve developed a much deeper awareness of my body, so it was a bit surprising when I went for massage therapy today to find that my shoulders were tighter than I thought they were.

I’ve shared a good bit of my story with my massage therapist (funny how we often share that stuff with the folks who provide us with services that are designed to make us look and feel better!). We’ve developed an interesting relationship, indeed she has become an accountability partner for me in The Forgiveness Project. She always asks me where I am in the process and she knows I’m working forgiveness through knitting. She pointed out to me that many of my muscle knots will likely resolve on their own once I’ve completed the knitting and delivered the projects. I think she’s right. I think my Mom would agree too (especially since we had a tough exchange in which she said to me “You’ll never get better until you make that forgiveness.”).

I know they are right, and it is genuinely something I am actively pursuing. Even still, there is part of me that keeps holding on. It reminds me of how difficult it is for women to get out of abusive relationships: sometimes it seems easier to stay with what you know even if it is killing you; easier to stay where you are, even when the possibility of change holds so much reward and promise of a better place. Change and letting go of the past are difficult indeed, especially in affairs of the heart.

Hard as the work is, it is still worthwhile. Hard as the work is, I believe it leads to a new life for me: one that is filled with hope and promise, and most especially, healing.

21 Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ 22Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy times seven. ~Matthew 18 (NRSV)

33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. 35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’ ~Matthew 18 (NRSV)

In this first-world life we might often equate illness with torture, particularly chronic illness and cancers. While there are many factors that determine who gets ill, some are beyond our control. What about the factors we do have some ability to control, namely issues of spirit and relationship? I do believe the illnesses of our heart and soul, when not treated effectively, do manifest in the body. Spiritual health is important to physical health, so I do think they (Mom, Massage therapist, integrative medicine specialists, clergy, etc) are correct in saying that working to a place of forgiveness will heal my heart/soul/mind and will bring healing to my body. I include this in my taking responsibility for making room for God to work miracles in my life. I believe the only way to make room for that (God’s miracles) is to be an active participant in my life, care and living. My life is a partnership with God and requires me to work with/for God.

As the scripture indicates, it is a sin to expect God’s forgiveness of one’s own sin when one is unwilling to forgive others. We may love because God first loved us (1 John 4.19), so we must also forgive others because God forgives us.

Gratitude comes everyday, here’s the next part of my list.

191. God’s love and forgivenesslilies of the valley

192. “Angels” on the path to forgiveness

193. Ability to support storm victims

194. Husband who drops everything to cook on the grill (and go buy the meat!)

195. Son’s perfect attendance at school

196. knitting progress

197. plants growing

198. refinished dresser with new hardware

199. first fresh cherries of the season and the memories sparked

200. connecting with other bloggers

This is my path: 

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4 Responses to Where do you hold your stress?

  1. You are so right about the interconnectedness of mind/spirit/body. Forgiveness is a process not an event. It takes time, it takes peeling back the layers, it’s not a ‘snap’ thing at all. And it doesn’t necessarily entail reconciliation, happy hugs or restored relationship. In fact, many times it can’t include those things. Forgiveness is essentially two things: an act of obedience – and – a gift you give yourself. So, be good to yourself, Grace, as you move towards obedience and release. Wounds take time to heal.

  2. Grace Walker says:

    I love how Lewis Smedes says we forgive in bits and pieces, for specific things and over a long period of time. He is so right!

  3. Mira says:

    Thanks for helping me to see things in a difnreeft light.

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