Whatever Floats Your Boat!
Many of my clients ask me the question of why they should practice the techniques and exercises when they don’t “need them.” In other words, there are many times during the day where it seems like we’re actually rolling along just fine. Certain specific times may be more stressful when we feel more intensity building up because of various incidents, circumstances, events, news, and more. But, there are times that can be calm.
My clients often say things like, “When I was really anxious, I tried to do the exercise, but it was really hard.” That’s right. We’re not necessarily meant to do them in the moment of the problem. Since we’re not in our optimal balance at those times, we may not even remember the tools or have mental access – “bandwidth” to do them. Sometimes they can be helpful at the moment, but they are really meant to be done as a regular daily maintenance regimen.
People often think you need to wait and to be totally frazzled to need to use relaxation or to take time for themselves. This is counterproductive and contraindicated. It makes no sense to do this since ultimately, the results are worse. Here’s a little analogy that might help you understand why we don’t wait until the last moment to take care of ourselves. I call it, “The Leaky Rowboat.”
Imagine you have a rowboat that has a small leak, but you haven’t attended to it for a long time. Over time, the boat gradually fills up with a lot of water. You notice that if you don’t take care of it soon, it’s going to sink. Once sunk, you no longer have a viable “floating vessel.” How do we prevent it from capsizing? First, you need to remove the water from the boat. What is the best way? Well, you could use a teaspoon (which would take a long time). If the leak is bringing in more water than the teaspoon is taking out, you’re working against yourself. Or you could use a teacup, a ladle, a jug, or a bucket. The more you’re able to remove, the sooner you’ll be able to see the bottom of the boat, “dry it out” and repair the leak. Meanwhile, imagine while you’re working hard removing the water, someone else has snuck a garden hose, or even worse, a fire hose of water into your boat. It’s gaining water and filling up faster than you can possibly remove it.
I think the analogy is obvious. Throughout our lives, our “vessels” fill up with stresses and strains, pressures, and responsibilities. However, if we don’t keep up with the maintenance, we’re “off keel” and headed downward. Today, in our crazy, 21st-century world, there’s always a little “leak.” What are we to do? We need to follow to remove the excess stress whether we feel sick (or sinking) or not. When the doctor tells you to take medication or supplements, you don’t necessarily feel what they’re accomplishing today, but you know they are part of your health program. Even if you don’t necessarily feel the immediate benefits of your self-care activities, whether they consist of relaxation, camaraderie, exercise, or better food, we cannot forget about ourselves. When we don’t take better care, our capacity or “bandwidth” diminishes.
So, my clients’ question about practicing when you’re feeling well, is now more easily understood. Most people are not even aware of the continuous slow “leak” caused by the stressors in their lives. They wait until it becomes challenging, painful, or even, sometimes unbearable. We must catch ourselves; we must notice that there is a leak, even if it is just minor. We need to attend to it before it gets out of hand. In this way, we will never have the excess “overflow” into our day-to-day life.
Wishing you success and keeping your boat afloat!
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[…] stressed out or overwhelmed, angry, anxious, or nervous. Remember the leaky boat analogy? (CLICK HERE to read it again.) We need to mindfully stay attentive to the “weather conditions” inside […]