Before I became a massage therapist I was a stressed out mess. Seriously. The first time I got a professional massage, my therapist kept telling me to relax. It confused me because I was relaxed. Even though I was more relaxed than I could remember being since I was a small child, here she was telling me I wasn’t relaxed… or at least not relaxed enough. I tried to relax even further, but it didn’t work. The more I tried, the less relaxed I felt. Every time I tried to relax one area of my body, another one tensed up with the effort. It was frustrating.
If you’re the super laid back type, you may not be able to relate, but I urge you to keep reading so you can learn how the other half lives.
If you’re like me, you need to keep reading to find out how I eventually learned how to let go enough that massage therapists would no longer tell me to relax. Well, not that much anyway.
Have you ever forgotten a word, fact, or name that you usually know? I’ll bet you have. I’ll also bet that you racked your brain trying to remember it. If you’re like most people, the harder you tried to remember the thing, the farther the thing slipped into the void. Then, in the middle of doing something later that day or several days later, you suddenly remembered and blurted it out at some completely random or inappropriate moment. It can be soooo frustrating.
Maybe not as frustrating as having someone tell you that you’re not relaxed when you feel the most relaxed you’ve ever been, but then, little is that frustrating. Except when they argue with you. Yeah, I’ve had folks insist that I’m not relaxed while I’m insisting that I am. Sigh. It took me a while to figure out why there was such a disconnect between two people’s interpretation of the same body.
Here’s what I came up with: It’s really of case of everything being relative. Relative to how you normally feel, you’re über relaxed. Relative to how they usually feel, you’re still wound tighter than a 13 day clock.
Here’s the deal: Trying to relax is like trying to remember that forgotten word; it’ll never work.
With the word, the harder you try to remember it, the more stressed you get, the more stressed you get, the more resources your brain routes away from the critical thinking and communication areas of the brain – since you don’t need those to fight or flee – and into your arms and legs, which you do need for running and/or fighting. And… well… you know the results of that.
With relaxation, the harder you try to relax the more stressed you get; especially if you were feeling pretty relaxed already. The more stressed you get, the more effort you put into relaxing (because more effort is our usual way of dealing with problems). Effort is work, and work is anything but relaxing; therefore trying to relax is doomed to fail.
Instead, what you need to do is allow yourself to relax. I won’t lie, this is a lot easier said than done. You’re probably so used to striving, trying, doing, etc. that to you, relaxing is something you only do after a few adult beverages or when you’re asleep. You may not even fully do it then. If you’ve ever woken up clenching your teeth, you know what I mean.
There are many situations where you might want to relax as much as possible, not just in a massage session, although massage is definitely the most important. But maybe I’m biased. Now, no two people are going to need the same conditions or even go about the allowing process exactly the same way. That said, there are several conditions that most people find important in order to relax:
So, if you’re an introvert who hates loud noises you’ll probably not want to go to a massage therapist whose office is in a gym or loud salon. If you’re sensitive to smells, you’ll probably want to avoid places like salons (stinky chemical hair treatments) and day spas (did someone bathe in their perfume?). You get the idea.
Here are a few strategies that most people find helpful to get the most out of the right environment:
So stop trying to relax. Make sure that conditions are conducive to allowing yourself to relax. Then just allow your body and mind to unwind and relax. It won’t happen overnight, but each time you allow yourself to relax a little bit more, you’ll get another dose of positive feedback that’ll keep you from giving up.
What are your experiences with relaxing? Are you a “relax any time, any place” kinda person. Or are you more the type who says, “relax? What is relax.? I don’t know what this word means.” Let me know in the comments below.