Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Relax --  It's one of my least favorite words and one I don't react all that well to hearing.  Just ask my husband how, "calm down," goes over in our house.  Relax.... yeah, as if it's that easy.

Lately, I've been hearing the phrase, "relax," more than I would like.  In the last couple of months, I've had numerous medical tests (none of them fun or relaxing) and the good news is, there is no evidence of any disease or injury or other medical condition.  I am healthy!  The bad news is, there is no explanation for my symptoms and no treatment for the pain.  Do you know what my doctor keeps telling me?  He keeps telling me that I need to relax (now obviously, he hasn't talked to my husband about what that phrase does to me). He says that my symptoms are likely stress induced and that I just need to work on being less stressed.  You can only imagine how relaxing it is to be told that there is nothing that can be done for your symptoms and that you will continue to face extreme pain, unless you learn how to remove all stress from your life and live in peaceful tranquility.  Just in case  you didn't catch it, that last sentence was loaded with sarcasm. 

As you can imagine, I haven't been very happy about being told to relax.  In fact, I've been pretty un-relaxed about the whole damn thing.  I've told anyone who would listen (willingly or unwillingly) how absolutely stupid it is to be told to relax.  I mean, WTH?!?!  RELAX!?!?  As if it's that easy.  As if I have some sort of choice in the matter.  Life is STRESSFUL.  I am STRESSED.  I don't like being stressed.  Of course I don't want  to be stressed.  Of course, being relaxed and peaceful all of the time sounds wonderful.  It's not like I'm intentionally choosing to be stressed....
And then there it was, right in that exact spot of my monologue.  There was that voice.  I don't know where it comes from (inside, the Universe, God??), but you know what voice I'm talking about.  And you know what that voice said, right then, right when I was lamenting about how I'm not choosing feeling this way??  It said:
"Oh, but you are."
BAM!!  So, there it is.  Oh, but I am.  I am choosing to be stressed.  Stressed isn't something that is done to me, it is a choice I make about how to react to my circumstances.  Sure, things happen that are out of my control, but my reaction to those things is 100% under my control.  Isn't that some bittersweet news?  It's so easy to blame everyone and everything else for making you feel stressed out (it's not my fault, it's the fault of my job, my lover, my friends, etc.).  It's so hard to accept responsibility for the not so great feelings you are having.  But. isn't it also nice to know that we have the power to change how we are feeling?  Just as I have chosen to feel stressed out for the last.....I don't know, all of my life, I can now choose to RELAX.
But, how?
Now, that's the question.  How do I break the cycle of responding to life with stress by choosing calm?  I think it's going to be very long and very deliberate process.  Changing ones habits is never easy.  But, I've come up with the first step in my quest for relaxation:
RECLASSIFICATION - I came up with this theory as I was going through the list of all of the things I have to do during a day that make me feel stressed out.  As I made my list, I realized that the majority of things on the list were actually not things I "had" to do, but things that I "wanted" to get done or things that "could be done" or things that "could wait."  Not everything from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. were things that I had to do.  I need to reclassify all of the "haves" on my list to what they really are. Reclassifying doesn't mean I won't still jam all of the things on my list into my day, but when I'm not staring at a day full of things I have to do and instead looking at a day full of some things that I have to do, but plenty of other things I want to do, or would like to do, it's suddenly not so stressful.  Instead of being upset because I HAVE to get to the gym by 5:30, I can be happy that I'm getting to do something I want by working out in the morning.  It's all about perspective.  Doing things you want to do is way more fun than doing things you have to do. 
Like I said, I think the road to stress-free for me is very long and certainly won't be solved by reclassification alone, but if I start now with one small baby step, somewhere in the long run maybe I'll manage to find this relaxation thing everyone keeps talking about.


  1. Last year I had a number of physical symptoms that were making my daily life a little complicated. After many exams, and doctors not finding anything wrong, I knew the symptoms had to be a result of stress. I totally understand what you feel when people tell you to "relax", which is even more difficult when you might be experiencing a somatoform disorder. I love your suggestion of reclassification. Something very similar worked for me. I made a more detailed plan of my short term, long term, and daily goals, extending them, but organizing them in a way that I feel I am always being productive, and I will have the results I want in the future. Breathing exercises are also very helpful.
    I moved to Houston 5 months ago, and found your blog while searching for physical activities in this big city. Thank you for sharing, and I invite you to check my blog. I just posted about Epsom salt baths and their benefits to decrease pain and get nutrients.
    Best, Diana

    1. Diana - First of all, welcome to Houston!! I really hope you end up loving this city. It's a great one! I imagine my struggle with relaxing will be a lifelong one, but they say the first step in fixing a problem is admitting there is one. I'm hoping that just being aware of my stress level helps me out. I checked out your blog. It looks great!

  2. Sorry for the late response. You are right, it is a long journey but not impossible. I'm enjoying Houston. I finally had some time to go to the museums and parks, despite the cold weather. Have a happy and successful 2015.