I remember going to the beach as a kid in Florida. My favorite thing to do was challenge the waves.
It was a game. If I put my weak 10-year-old shoulder into the wave and didn’t fall down, I won. If I got knocked down, I lost. I also enjoyed trying to catch the football as a wave hit me (football simulator ’97).
What Makes Waves Powerful?
Waves are a powerful and sudden “delivery” of a large volume of water. Their power is found in the difference between taking a 10-minute shower vs. having all of that water thrown at you at once. A wave gathers up water (slowly or quickly, depending on the wave) and releases it in one move, crashing down on poor young Stephen.
The wave concept can be seen in many other areas.
- Many video games offer power-up meters, that once filled, can unleash a powerful attack.
- We all know that lightning is a glorious discharge of electrical energy, but it doesn’t happen instantly. It behaves like a wave, building up energy and releasing it at once: “negative charges generally gather near the base of the cloud, while positive charges build in the upper reaches of the cloud. This allows electric fields to form and grow between the cloud and the ground and within the cloud itself – all necessary conditions for lightning to occur.” 1
- When pressure and heat under the earth’s mantle build to a certain point, volcanoes erupt.
These examples have the following in common: a gathering of something that is released at once.
How Relaxation Waves Can Destroy Stress
I first discovered this technique trying to go to sleep one night. I tried constantly to relax, and couldn’t do it.
As an experiment, I decided to make a rule. On every inhale, I could feel as stressed out as I wanted, but on every exhale, I would attempt to relax slightly. This worked wonders! I quickly realized that it allowed me to gather my stress on inhales and release it on exhales. And with each passing stress-releasing wave, I felt more relaxed than the one before it. I slept like a
This isn’t just for bedtime. It can help you at any time. If you feel stressed, here’s what you can do.
3 Steps to a Wave of Stress Relief
- Embrace your stress. Let your greatest worries and fears and insecurities flow into your body. Allow them to infiltrate every muscle, tensing your whole body up, making you a dense ball of stress. Tense your muscles. Become stress incarnate!
- Hold it for 2 beats as you inhale deeply.
- On your exhale, release it all. Relax your muscles and let your stress go. Imagine it leaving your body.
Repeat as desired. Each wave should build on the relaxation gained from the last one.
Simple, isn’t it? But it’s a powerful distinction from what most people try to do. Most people try to “just relax,” which is a constant burden every moment they can’t do it. When they fail to relax one moment, it makes the next moment even tougher to relax. It quickly gets to their head and they think, “If I was capable of relaxing, I’d be relaxed already.” This increases their stress even more and becomes a vicious stress cycle (it’s stressful to be stressed), which unfortunately for humans, has nasty and painful ways of releasing on its own: disease, emotional outbursts, depression, muscle tension, sleepless nights, and so on.
But if you harness your stress and release it like a wave, you’ll prevent that toxic build-up and stop the cycle.
The hidden benefit of this technique is in the moment you embrace your stress, where you face the source(s) of your stress. If you (try to) deny and suppress your problems, they will live inside of you as stress. By embracing your stress for that brief moment (before you release it), you also acknowledge your fears, doubts, anxieties, and problems, which is how you can overcome them emotionally (if not literally as well). Many of the “problems” we have are artificially amplified by our minds. Problems are rarely as bad as they seem, but you’ll only know that if you face them.
So there you have it. Stress, like many types of energy found in the world, can be gathered and released like a wave. But you have to take the counterintuitive step to take in your stress first before you can release it. Try it. You’ll like it, and it can be your secret relaxation weapon for the rest of your life.
(photo by pirate_renee)