Stress Knot What You Cannot See

by Maria Ebrahimji

It seems somewhat befitting and ironic that the day before I sat down to write this piece, I went to a new massage therapist.

I thought I was going to tell you, in how-to, self-help guide fashion, how I manage stress in my life. (Everyone loves tips, right?). I was going to convey that tension is best released on the bike at spin class twice a week. I was going to tell you about my weekend runs at a trail near my home, and how I take travel getaways, or go to the spa every now and then for a facial.

Well, my new massage therapist changed my mind because she found stress in places I never thought I had.

As a working journalist and television producer in a large media organization, it is easy to get caught up in the news and mentally ignore all that is hidden and not in front of you. Television producers are masterful multi-taskers and crisis management experts—in the field or in the control room. Apparently I hadn’t thought to “produce” stress relief in my own life.

I had treated myself to many massages prior to this one, and what I thought was a relaxing lunch hour trip to the spa to start my weekend, ended up being an uncomfortable experience. Coaxing knots out of one’s muscles and uncovering pain you didn’t know existed is not relaxing.

What I realized, and was graciously taught that afternoon, is that stress manifests itself in so many different ways. My body’s fight or flight mechanism has been expertly finding ways to pack the stress away so that it’s not overtly seen or felt. In my case, only expert hands were able to find my hidden stress. Now, it’s up to me to be more aware of how I produced that stress to begin with.

Career women often hold to the notion that they can be all, to all, at all times—as if we have something to prove. I certainly am one of them. I recently took a personality test that indicated one of my greatest strengths was my “achiever” quality—a desire to grow and constantly achieve and meet goals. After over a decade in my profession achieving and growing and covering some of the world’s biggest news stories, I am now turning to my own developing story: the need to produce unknotted muscles. It will be the most important self-help guide I’ll pen for myself.

As I was leaving, the therapist said, “Please come back in two weeks. I want to help you.”

Graciously accepting help: Tip #1.

Maria M. Ebrahimji is a journalist and executive editorial producer at CNN and the co-editor of “I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim” (White Cloud Press, 2011).

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