by Chay Tanchanco, LMFT
This might sound very strange but I think about a children's book that I found in the eye doctor's office a lot. The book is called "Too Much Noise" and it was written by Ann McGovern. (Spoilers ahead!)
An old man sits in his house, hearing the sounds in his house.
"The bed creaked. The floor squeaked. Outside, the wind blew the leaves through the trees. The leaves fell on the roof. Swish. Swish. The tea kettle whistled. Hiss. Hiss."
He's annoyed by the sounds.
"Too noisy," he says.
The story follows his comical quest to find a way to make his house less noisy. He goes to the wise man in the village, and he asks him what he should do. The wise man repeatedly suggests to him that he buy farm animals, adding them one at a time.
Every time the man adds an animal, it naturally has its own sound. The cows moo, the donkey brays, the sheep bleats, the chicken clucks, the dog barks, the cat meows. The man becomes more and more exasperated, of course. He finally gets fed up and tells the wise man (essentially), 'You were supposed to help me--you've only made it worse!'
Then the wise man stands up and shouts:
"Do what I tell you: let the cow go. Let the donkey go. Let the sheep go. Let the chicken go. Let the dog go. Let the cat go."
The old man does as he was instructed, and then he notices the absence of noise. No one barks or meows. No one brays or bleats.
Instead of feeling annoyed with the rustling of the leaves, his creaking floorboards, and the tea kettle, he is soothed. He feels relief because the added noise is gone, and he can appreciate the quiet in his space again.
What does this children's book have as a lesson for us adults? Do we really need to add 10 other things to our plate to make things more stressful, then let them go?
(Though it may explain why sometimes we make plans only to cancel them later and feel consequent relief.)
As a continuation from our last blog post, we hold much of this tension from our lives in our bodies. One technique that your therapist may teach you is called the progressive muscle relaxation technique and it is very similar to the advice from the wise man to our homeowner friend.
This is a very simple technique that you can do throughout the day, while you're in meetings or in the kitchen or on the couch or in bed before sleep or when you wake up. This is also a fantastic thing to teach to your kids.
Sit or stand in a comfortable position.
Take a few slow, deep breaths by counting to 5 for your inhale, then 5 for your exhale.
Start with your feet, tensing the muscles in each one; inhale as you hold for 5 seconds, then release and exhale.
Repeat this pattern up through your body. Your legs, your hips and groin, your stomach, chest, back, shoulders, arms, hands, neck and shoulders, face muscles.
I found this great (Free!) audio for guiding yourself through a progressive muscle relaxation technique on Monday Campaigns, a great resource!
Perhaps after listening to your body and adding some tension, you might be able to listen to the creaks and the squeaks of your every day life and they might not seem so noisy.