How many holistic healing practitioners have you encountered who piously urge you to ‘eliminate stress’? You’re not ‘living the life’ unless you’re ‘free from stress’!
Just makes you want to smack ‘em.
Because stress happens. If your life is entirely free from stress, you’re either a sociopath or you’re dead. You can eat healthy, exercise, meditate, get counseling, get a better job, live a ‘soul-centered life,’ and you are still no more immune to death, disease, anxiety, uncertainty, and sudden traumatic upheavals than anyone else. A huge problem with New Age evangelists is that they try to use their beliefs, habits and mantras as talismans against evil–if I just chant ‘Love is Everywhere’ often enough, everyone will love me and nobody will ever die!
Recently, dear friends, I left my day job to run my business full-time. In the space of two and a half months I came down with two colds, an ear infection, and lower back spasms that lasted two weeks. Luckily, I do not believe that ‘psychosomatic’ means ‘it’s all in your head, so just Think Good Thoughts!’ I have a realistic understanding of the mind-body connection, which dictates that emotional stress can lead to a less-effective immune system and a hyperactive nervous system, and there’s not always an easy way around it. So I followed my own advice, put my daughter in the stroller and walked for miles and miles. In a little while, the colds, ear infection and spasms cleared up, and I continued evangelizing.
So I prefer to talk about ‘stress management techniques’ rather than ‘living a stress-free life.’ That way, when you smash into one of life’s brick walls, you say to yourself, “Ah! A brick wall! Let me mix myself an iced tea while consulting a map,” instead of, “OMG! This wasn’t supposed to happen! I must be a Bad Person! Commence self-flagellation, or flagellation of others!”
I could go off on many Prescriptions for Life, since I’ve been signing up for a whole lot of holistic mailing lists lately, but in order to restrict myself to my purported area of expertise, I will confine myself to a few Tips for Stress-Induced Lower Back Pain.
- When it’s in the acute stages, try to sleep on your back with a bolster under your knees, and a rolled-up towel behind your neck. This keeps your spine in a neutral position, and allows the spasming muscles to get over their freakout with a minimum of interference.
- Hydrate. Drink a ton of ice water, lemon water, iced tea and diluted fruit juice. You can intersperse this with strong liquor (great muscle relaxant!) as long as you adhere to the ‘rinse cycle’ principle; one virgin cranberry seltzer for every alcoholic drink you consume.
- Take it one day at a time. Walk as much as you can. Sit on a yoga ball and bounce; this loosens your hip flexors, which are key in stabilizing your lower back.
- Get a massage! It won’t fix the pain right away, but it will address the spasming muscles, and send your brain into a theta-wave state which will reduce your stress reactions in the longer term.
- Go to a yoga class, once the pain is less acute. Yoga will balance your body all over, releasing restrictions far from the area of pain which may be contributing to it.
- Tylenol won’t kill you if you take a couple. Just don’t make a long-term habit of it.