I went on a short vacation with my husband in July. We went up to the North Shore. For those of you not from Minnesota, the North Shore is short for the northern shore of Lake Superior. I hadn’t been in a few years. It was a wonderful getaway. Very relaxing.
One day my husband was sitting in the passenger seat and sensed my irritation as I waited for the person in front of me to take forever to turn left at a traffic light. He was one of those people that seem to need an engraved invitation to make a left turn. There were lots of opportunities to turn, but did he take any of them? No! Of course not! He finally turned when the light was really red. I had to wait for another phase of the lights before I could continue straight.
I knew my husband sensed my irritation because he leaned over and said to me, “We’re not in a rush. We’re on vacation.”
Not an unusual comment, given the circumstances.
Typically being on vacation is about not being in a rush. That is one reason people often say that vacations are relaxing.
Not being in a rush is relaxing.
The exact opposite of stressful.
It is also why people often feel better when they are on vacation. And then feel worse when they return to their daily routine.
I call this the vacation effect.
Maybe you have had the experience that your stiff neck and overly tense shoulders felt so much better that week when you were at the beach on vacation only to become tense again the first few days back at the office. Or that nagging low back pain eased somewhat during the week at the lake cabin only to return with a vengeance when you were back in the daily grind.
Some of it has to do I am sure with you physically doing different things than you normally do while on vacation. Maybe getting a bit more exercise than you normally do. Movement does a body good.
But I believe a big part of it has to do with your mindset.
Your mindset affects your muscles.
The mindset of being in a rush, of not having enough time to get everything done, is stressful.
You typically react to stress with excess muscular tension.
And excessive muscular tension is a contributing factor to poor posture and musculoskeletal pain.
“I carry all my stress in my shoulders” is not an uncommon remark.
I might reframe it by saying, “My habitual reaction to stress is to tighten my shoulders”
If you have been on vacation this summer and experienced the vacation effect, realize that you are allowed to take that vacation mindset to work with you. You don’t have to pack it away with your rest of your luggage when you return home.
Really, you can. You can give yourself permission. Go ahead. Give yourself permission.
The next time you feel overly tense in your shoulders or your back is tightening up again, do a mindset check.
If your mind is telling you that you have a million things to do and not enough time, that you’ve got to hurry up and get this done, so you can get on to the next thing, take a moment and realize that:
- your “rushing mindset” is creating extra stress for yourself,
- which you typically react to with excess muscular tension and
- excessive muscular tension is a contributing factor to poor posture and musculoskeletal pain.
You can choose instead to tell yourself:
- I have time
- I have time to do what I am currently doing
- I have time to enjoy what I am doing in this moment
This is a simple suggestion but not necessarily easy to implement—especially if you have a lifelong habit of rushing.
But it’s worth trying.
Over time, your body and your posture will thank you for it.