I am a posture fitness specialist, which means I work hands on with clients on a daily basis. I pride myself on being someone who can get along with most everyone. But every once in a while I meet someone who just gets under my skin. Someone whose communication style is contrary to mine, or perhaps so similar that we clash. In this case, this someone that I’ve known for many years is named Barbara. Ok, not really, I made up that name, but you get the picture.
Barbara and I became fast friends many years ago when we first met. Both ambitious, both with kids the same age, both with similar backgrounds and education. However, over time, I found myself relying too much on Barbara’s opinion. She was strong willed, stronger than me, and in some ways, more successful than me. So I looked up to that. I admired that. I turned to her advice and often took it, despite the fact that others around me could see that the advice was often ill-advised.
Then one night, during an intimate conversation and after a few glasses of wine, Barbara showed her true colors. I had revealed something quite personal, and she had some irreversible negative responses. I’m not saying I wasn’t to blame for the argument that ensued that particular evening (communication does go both ways), but her reaction was not that of a “true friend”. Let’s just say I realized where her insecurities lie, and how they manifest in the way that she deals with others.
I was devastated for months. I had grown to rely on our friendship and was very saddened by that evening’s events. I felt judged by her statements, and I continued to still let her “advice” impact my opinion of myself.
Since then, I spent the last few years working on my love for myself and my choices, and also learning to let others opinions have less of an impact on how I lived my life. The experience ended up positive because I learned that I needed to work on myself.
Due to extenuating social circumstances, Barbara and I still have to interact on occasion. A few weeks we were in a room together, and for the first time in years, I let my guard down. I opened up about some issues I was having, and she dove in with her “opinions” once again. I left the event feeling violated and attacked. Did she actually do anything wrong? In fact NO, she didn’t. It was entirely my reaction to her that was flawed.
I woke the next day with my emotions all over the board. I couldn’t focus, nor could I stop thinking about what had happened the day before. I started my workday and my clients noticed something different about me. They asked if I was sick, or possibly in pain.
“No” I responded. But then took a look in the mirror. I didn’t look like my confident, happy self. I looked fatigued. I looked hunched. I was mortified.
So the next morning I woke up, went upstairs into my home exercise studio, and started working on changing the course of my day.
Most people don’t think about the connection between our posture and emotions, but they exist.
My favorite example is that of the work of Amy Cuddy. She did some extensive research on how power postures can affect your cortisol and testosterone levels, therefore proving that how you stand can affect how much “power” you feel and how much “stress” your body takes. Check out her work if it intrigues you.
That morning I could feel the stress in my body. I noticed I was crossing my arms in front of my chest and hiding my heart from further pain. I limped into the exercise studio unenthusiastically, not sure how I was going to pull myself out of this funk.
I started with one of my tried and true protocols, a posture exercise routine that involves a series of stretches and exercises. I continued to exercise for twenty-five more minutes. I worked my back muscles with some rowing exercises, and my glutes with some bridging exercises.
At the end of it I felt like a new woman. I could feel the tightness in my muscles subside a bit. Sure I still felt a little saddened by the events the night before, but I reminded my body that “holding on” to the emotions just makes it all worse.
Perhaps it was the posture adjustments, or perhaps it was just the endorphin rush from the exercise. Numerous studies have shown that exercise can lower rates of depression.
Just 30 minutes. That’s all it took for me to feel better. I will admit, the negative thoughts from my failed friendship still plague me on occasion, but I do my best to push it out of my mind and focus on the positive. Is my life better with Barbara’s toxic energy out of my life? Yes! Am I eternally thankful for the ability to exercise to find mental peace and stability? YES, on so many levels.
I hope this story reminds you that our emotions impact our bodies and how they function. Remember the time you got butterflies in your stomach before speaking on stage? Or playing in that important competition? Start paying attention to where you hold your tension or stress.
Are you hunched? Do you look fatigued in your body? What is your body language saying?
It’s real people. And it’s time to start paying attention.
Zeena Dhalla is a Certified Posture Specialist and self-proclaimed posture GEEK. She helps people eliminate neck and back pain through simple and effective home-based exercise routines. Download the 5 Minute Solution to Hunchback Posture if you want to improve your posture and get out of bed every morning with less pain and more pizazz.
Image courtesy of Tim Gouw.March 16, 2017