Stress is something that’s all too common these days. We all need a little stress in order to get us up and out of bed in the mornings – but too much is a problem. When you’re stressed, even the simplest of things become a chore. It’s exhausting, but often even when you feel completely drained and knackered, you find you’re so stressed you can’t sleep!
Stress builds up quietly in our bodies over time. When you’re doing too much, your body doesn’t have time to deal with germs and eliminate toxins. All of this sits there in your cells, depositing itself around your body like grains of sand. Over time, this stiffens the body. In a way, it’s like your body mirrors your mind: stiffening up, getting tired, doing too much. Stress has set up camp in your body, and as your muscles tighten with each day, it’s harder and harder to let it go.
When you’re stressed and full of toxins like this, your body and mind are desperately trying to make sense of all this internal chaos. When you lay down at night your body is so busy trying to sort all of this out, there’s not much chance of a good night’s sleep! Often by this point you might not even feel stressed; instead we often feel as if the body is tingling. We feel stuck, as if there’s something blocking our natural flow. If we try to stretch, we feel like a board – like we can’t actually stretch any part of our bodies.
So many people who come to me with sleep issues are so stressed and stiff, it’s easy to see why they can’t relax when their bodies often can’t even lay flat without pain. I see people who have to sleep with pillows under their legs, or can only sleep laying on one side; people who have to take pain killers just to relieve some of their pain before they can get to sleep. A lot – if not all – of this pain is really just tension that has built up in their bodies over time, stopping them from relaxing properly, to the point that now when they do try to relax, it’s agony!
What can we do to fix this? One of the most helpful things we can all do is to just stretch and let go. I love restorative yoga for this. It’s great if you’re exhausted and don’t want to be busy concentrating on a bunch of difficult postures. You can just let go; it’s beautiful. It sounds too simple to be true, I know How can you just “let” go of your stress, relieve your tension without someone pounding at your muscles for half an hour? Yes, a massage can help – but if you’re still holding onto your stress, that tension will just find its way back into the muscles the masseuse has just relaxed. We need to release the tension from within, in order to have lasting calmness.
You can even go one step further, and do bumble bee breathing (hum like a bumble bee on the exhale) with the stretching and letting go. It can work a treat! It sounds so simple but the best things often are!