Managing Stress: ‘Relax, Relate, Release’
One of my favorite childhood shows was “A Different World.” It was one of the first TV shows that made college (and Greek life) seem real for me and exciting, especially as a young woman of color. There was one scene from the show that cracks me up to this day but also featured some true advice. Whitley’s character is a high-strung debutante with an extremely nasal voice. She goes to a therapist to help her deal with her type A personality that’s used to always being in control, on point, and prone to stress (remind you of anyone?).
After Whitley explains her problem, the therapist says, “You can’t control that! The only thing you can control is how you feel. Not how you feel, but how you deal with what you feel that is real. You’ve got to relax, relate, release into reality.” The two get into a staccato rhythm of repeating “relax, relate, release,” complete with full-shoulder choreography for each word. The two of them jerking in the office to this mantra was pretty hilarious. I cracked up alongside the sitcom laugh track and, to this day, I crack up at the thought.
That was just a TV scene, but the concept is so real. Part of life with (and even without) a chronic illness means our stress shows up in our body. We flare, we get achy, and we even end up in hospitals because of how stress takes its toll. Don’t get it twisted: It’s unrealistic to expect a stress-free life where everything makes sense, your boo always acts right, and every day goes exactly as planned. That’s never going to be the case. It’s just not how life on Earth goes. There will always be things we cannot change or unexpected events. I’m not saying you can’t get frustrated or even pissed off, but at some point, you need to “relax, relate, release!”
Take a few breaths and make sure this issue is really something worth the consideration. Doing a few shoulder rolls and taking a moment could inject fresh perspective in the situation. My road rage, especially as a native New Yorker, used to be pretty darn bad. I remember someone cutting me off (as is the norm), and the level of anger combined with the way I tensed my body actually put me in a flare. Meanwhile, that crazy driver was long gone and chilling, while I was still in my car fuming with chest pain. Our first instinct is to tighten up and ball our fists, but imagine if we just took a moment to relax amid the struggle — we might not even need the other two steps.
In the big scheme of things, how does this situation truly relate to you? Is there a long-term impact or is this something that won’t matter a year from now or even tomorrow? Does this person need to be in your life? Does this situation change who you are, where you are going? Does it make sense or cents? Can it pay your rent? With all that you have to deal with — medications, flares, etc. — does this issue need to be a priority? Can you control the outcome or change the situation in any way? If not, then on to the final step.
Like the hook from “Frozen” says, “Let it go, let it go!!!” (Ah, now that song is going to be stuck in my head!) Are you holding onto an old problem? Do you act like me when a driver cuts you off? Mad while the other person is chilling? Was there something to be learned from this?
I used to be so angry at a guy who broke up with me and, promptly after, I realized … he was trifling! I mean, holler-at-other-women-while-your-new-girlfriend-is-in-the-room trifling. How can I be angry when I dodged a relationship with a guy like that?
Some people and things aren’t meant for your life, and some situations prepare you for your future. Focus and figure out the lesson within it or recognize the not-so-fun fact that life can be messed up sometimes. There’s no need to keep the anger and pain so close to the surface because that changes nothing. Amid the trials, try to zero in on the beautiful things in life (like having breath in your body). Release it! I’m not saying it’s bad to get mad or hurt or seek answers. But the sooner you move to a place of acceptance, the sooner you’ll find a bit more peace of mind.
What do you need to relax, relate, release? Share it in the comments section.
Note: Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lupus News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.