Posted by: Kris Lindsey | May 17, 2013

Too Tense for Joy?

My joy quest took another unexpected turn when Bob and I decided to make a spontaneous get-away to Calistoga, CA. I called ahead to make sure the hotel had vacancies and found out about the “Manager’s Special,” which included therapeutic massages. Why not splurge? A massage would probably do me good.

I thought I was pretty relaxed until the therapist’s first pass over my back. Ouch. Where did those knots come from?

“Are you a weight lifter?” she asked. “Are you under a lot of stress?”

I felt my face flush as I peeped “no.”

Why was I so tense? Was I holding my muscles tight out of habit? Had my muscles forgotten to relax after stressful events in the past? Whatever the reason, it was high time I broke this painful cycle. And where better to start than at Calistoga?

For the next two days, Bob and I spent hours lounging in the warm mineral pools, enjoying each other’s company. We visited a very cool castle winery, and tasted some wines I actually liked.  The biggest stress was figuring out where to eat next (I loved the break from cooking). I felt my body start to relax.Castillo di Amorosa

But how could I keep up this relaxing trend when I returned to my everyday life? Last fall at the end of our vacation I felt more relaxed than I’d ever been, and now here I was tense again. Was it even possible to stay relaxed on a daily basis? I didn’t know, but was determined to try.

I suspected that my tense stature might be putting a damper on my ability to be joyful. How could I jump for joy when I was stiff as a robot? I decided to concentrate on relaxing my tense muscle groups throughout the day for a month to see what difference it would make.

Now I spend a few minutes each night before I go to sleep relaxing my shoulders, hips, feet, and any other areas that are tense. I do the same thing before I get out of bed in the morning. I practice relaxing my muscles as I brush my teeth and during my daily walk. Whenever I see my knee bobbing or my hands fidgeting I pause to let go of the tension. In the evening I assess my body tension between TV shows and force my muscles to let go during the commercials.

At first it felt good to relax, and I did start feeling a little happier. But after a few days of trying to make my body obey, relaxing started feeling like hard work. Because I’ve held my muscles tight for years, they persistently tense back up as soon as I relax them. I don’t want to give up, though. That’s why I’m writing this down—to be accountable.

I know I can’t do this on my own, so I’m asking God to help me. Is “God, please help me relax” a strange request? The Bible tells us to ask God for help with everything that concerns us (Philippians 4:6). I’m hoping The Lord will help me find the keys to controlling my rogue muscles as I continue my search for joy.

Do you think being tense or uptight affects our joy? What helps you relax?


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