Some tension isn’t all that bad. In fact, we couldn’t move a single muscle without it. The trouble starts when we forget how to let go. Our bodies become tight and we use tremendous amounts of energy “holding” it in place. With me, my shoulder blades are the first to start talking. But, tension affects more than our physical bodies. It affects our attitudes and work process as well, sabotaging our effectiveness with the potential of even derailing our careers when left unchecked. For example:
• the cynic who’s always trying to find fault and cast blame
• the worrier, who agonizes over every decision or plays it safe
• the center of attention whose insecurity demands the spotlight
• the arrogant one who must be right and long ago stopped listening
• the perfectionist determined to get reality under control
Yep… it can get pretty ugly! So how can you deal with tension before it becomes toxic? The key lies in what The Zen Leader calls “leading with extension.” If tension makes us small and tight, extension makes us larger and open. It is mind and body flowing naturally with the circumstances.
The first step is to find a sustainable rhythm or pulse to our day that allows our energy to renew and function naturally. Stretch and release. Drive and recover. Taking a mini-break every 90 minutes or so helps build this rhythm.
The second step is to let your energy drop down into your “hara”, or “center,” located in your lower abdomen, by breathing deeply into this area. This changes your energy flow from all head to deeper-than-conscious intuition. It brings a sort of conscious centeredness that allows you read a situation, sense the opening for change and react accordingly.
Making the flip from tension to extension allows you to use your natural energy to propel your vision as a leader. If you’re ever stuck, drained, frustrated, defensive or depressed, here’s a simple exercise that uses your own wisdom to help determine a practice that’s right for you.