I don’t write about this a lot, but I do yoga almost every day. I’ve been practicing since I was five and for the last decade-plus, I’ve had a daily practice. Yoga helps me to notice quicker when I’m stressed or feeling negatively about something, and when I need to up the self-care.
I have a morning practice of 15 minutes or so. It’s much harder for me to carry physical tension and stress when I’m practicing, even if I rush it in the mornings. Learning a relaxation routine to release physical tension and anxiety taught me how not to store it in my body. Considering the stressful nature of so much of expat life, like starting a new job in a new country, relaxation is a good thing to know how to do.
Exercising is another great way to achieve a similar, though not identical, result. When I’m out camping in nature, I love to go running. Where I live in West Africa, there’s good surf on my doorstep, and that helps too. But even more than physical exercise, I find that when I cultivate relaxation practices, my day goes better, easier.
Most of us don’t talk or think a lot about stress, which is odd, because it’s big determinant of physical and mental health. Mental stress you’re likely familiar with, but what does physical stress look like? Chances are you’re holding onto some just now, so I’ll show you.
Try this. Raise the crown of your head towards the sky, slowly roll your shoulders back and down, and tuck in your chin a little bit. Let there be space between your shoulders and your ears. Inhale. Exhale. See the difference?
I love learning quick self-care fixes like that.
We all know that expat life can be very stressful. Look around. The norms are long hours, taking work home on weekends, dropping everything for a donor visit, and working particularly long and hard on emergency or humanitarian assignments. It’s pretty much expected.
For many of us, stress has affected our personal and intimate relationships. Working too much has probably influenced the depth of our friendships and the strength of our romance. Stress has likely been the unacknowledged trigger for fights and resentment.
The truth is: stress is optional.
You may not prevent exposure, especially in challenging environments, but you do have a choice about how to respond. I want to tell you about one technique that, in less than a minute, makes a physical difference in my level of anxiety and tension.
I have used this technique when heading to a big conference, sitting behind a cranky taxi driver, and when it’s hard to shift out of a negative mood. In this video, cancer survivor and wellness warrior Kris Carr shows you the basics of Tapping. I was going to make a video about this for you eventually, and I’m glad she went first. Reading Kris’s stuff is how I learned about this technique in the first place.
Tapping is going to look and feel weird the first time you do it. But how many anxiety-eliminating techniques have I asked you to try, so far? Just watch the video and try it once.
As a simple DIY technique for moving through anxiety, it’s good to have in the toolbox.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell me what (if anything) shifted for you. If you know someone else who could benefit from eliminating some anxiety, sharing is caring.