Recently I have been thinking a lot about a song I wrote called “Learn to Fall” on the Change EP and how I actually use my own song for stress relief when I need some balance. I have been back in the UK for around a week and a half having been away in the USA for almost 3 weeks, more about that on another blog.
We all face stress, have to face our emotional ego and learning to let go is not always easy, but it has to be done sometimes to relieve stress. Music can be great for general stress relief and getting rid of unwanted tension. I don’t believe it has to be slow, tranquill and calming, the way we would think of stress relieving music. An ex-boyfriend of mine is in a thrash metal band and he said playing that music was some of the best kind of relief ever!
This week has been interesting, challenging and emotional; thinking about what I want to achieve for the rest of the year, projects I’m already involved in and my general work and life balance. Having watched some people face their ultimate challenge of the London Marathon this weekend just gone, for some it may have been a life long fear they wanted to face even, I realised that over the past few weeks my biggest challenge has been facing my ego: my musical ego, my business ego and my emotional ego 🙂
Learn to Fall
Challenging your ego – “we all have to go down” (lyrics from “Learn to Fall”)
Musicians face many stresses in the industry now, not least making a decent living. Even the coolest of us must have an ego somewhere to get up on stage and want to perform for others. Like stress, not all ego is a bad thing, it can even save you sometimes. In the past whenever I faced stress or pressure I didn’t share burdens or let people know how I was feeling, I’m terrible for trying to be like a ‘duck on water’, keep the image that everything is fine as I smile and continue to sing and dance! That’s the ego in me always only wanting people to see me at my best!
I have started the British Wheel of Yoga’s (BWY) Foundation course to go deeper into my knowledge of yoga and hopefully go on to complete the BWY Teaching Diploma. Sunday was my second month, and we went deep into the purpose and technique of forward bends. I’ve always been great at forward bends, with my little legs, but as I find, not as good as I may like to think. Yoga has no ego: full stop. You can’t do yoga with ego, because if you do it hurts. So many think the aim to bend forward is to get as far down as you can, head to knees. I have a hyper mobile lower back, so I can look like I’m doing the best forward bend there ever was, but looks are deceiving. So I had a great day of learning proper yoga technique for forward bends and finding I still work pretty well. I never show off with yoga, I do a lot of private practice, but coming out of Sunday I was feeling amazing, to be surrounded by like minded people and not have to compete, yet still achieve fantastic things is wonderful. Then on Monday I was walking with this blissful (maybe a little smug) feeling and out of nowhere the curb trips me up and I’m flat on my belly across a gravel car park. I twisted my ankle, cut my knee and scrapped my hands. Best thing was it was all in front of a team of builders; cue jokes that I was “falling for them”. At first I went to hurry to get up, then realised I couldn’t as I was hurt, but mainly because I was laughing at the fact that I had spent the entire previous day thinking about how good it felt to lose my ego. It was like another mini test!
A couple of years ago when I faced a difficult health situation someone said to me, you repeat your mistakes usually because you didn’t learn the first time! How true that has been, but just that phrase sticking in my mind has reminded me why I do things and when not to do things! Without challenge many of us take the easy route, me included. But my motivation to challenge myself has changed over these two years since I’ve not been recording new music. WIth yoga, mindfulness, meditation and relaxation techniques this is what I’ve learned:
1. To appreciate what I have and that moving forward slowly is ok.
2. That whether we choose to listen to the lesson or not we will always be challenged emotionally to face our own ego.
3. I’m more willing to learn from everyone I meet and that no situation is bad unless I say it is, I only have “new” or “different”. Bad things happen, that’s life unfortunately.
4. Allowing yourself to make mistakes is the best way to learn to forgive other people.
5. Never to be too proud to ask for help.
Stress Relief – It’s the small things
Our bodies weren’t designed for us to be put under constant strain and pressure causing a constant flow of stress for our mind, emotions and body. We all know the fight or flight response, but what happens these days when there is a real stress, more like in caveman days that comes without warning, like an accident or emergency situation? If we are under constant pressure with no stress relief, how do we cope? In 2012 I experienced this and since then I can say that I’ve had to revisit the song “Learn to Fall” and remember what I felt when I wrote it, what I meant and how I learned to change my habits to help my healing. It was the biggest challenge for my ego and along with many other stresses since it’s been a long road, but it showed me that relieving stress is something that we must all consider building into our daily lives. Sometimes that means letting go of your ego and asking for help, sometimes it means doing a little research of your own.
7 things that have helped my stress relief daily without too much work are:
1. To stop thinking I have to prove myself everyday – learn to fall! Not standing out is sometimes a blessing in disguise, it helps us keep our heads down and beaver away until we’re stronger and ready! Though maybe learning to fall literally as well as metaphorically could help me prevent injury !
2. To seek the source of your stress. It seems obvious really, but what I’ve learnt is sometimes it’s not what is causing me stress it’s the way I’m handling it that’s causing the problem. For years I kept adding to ‘the list’ of things I should do daily to make myself feel better – exercise, time for relaxation, read more books etc… Until I realised it was trying to timetable all my activities that was causing me the most stress! I have sailed into my yoga course as it’s not something I have to do to ‘help’ myself, I’m doing it because I just love it!
3. Practice active mindfulness. Mindfulness is thought to be some spiritual activity that only yogis or religious people do, but it’s really not and it does not have to put you on track to “spiritual enlightenment” (unless that’s what you want!!). Concentrating without letting your mind wonder or think too much in every task at hand from eating to washing the dishes is actually really hard. Driving without music has been the best one for me.
4. Breathe! Breathing properly actually takes regular practise and I really believe you have to do it on its own to fully feel the benefits. Try a yoga class that focuses on breathing or look up someone like Dr. Dave Carbonell for online breathing exercises.
5. Plan your exercise and relaxation together. Exercise is a stress, but sometimes a good stress as we achieve desired results. The most benefit I found is when you do an exercise you enjoy and follow it immediately with a relaxation session. It promotes the association of feeling good after exercise and makes you more likely to do it again. This is why I love yoga as it’s an all encompassing exercise which sole purpose is to promote well-being.
6. Laugh often 🙂 Laughing helps blood flow, immune response, relaxation and sleep. Also being able to laugh at yourself and not taking things too seriously is so good for stress levels. When I fell recently (which actually happens often, but not as dramatic or painful) I actually just wanted to laugh hard because it was really funny. My family and I laugh often and joke often, my Nan died quite suddenly just before Christmas 2013 and when she was taken into A&E I asked her how she was feeling, she said “to be honest Shel I feel S.H.I.T!!” (she had to spell it out as she didn’t swear, bless her!). That was one of the last things she said and what a great memory for me and her to have had humour even in the last hours of her life.
7. Listening to music, but really listening! Most of us put things on in the background and don’t actually listen. Great melodies make you feel good, repetitive songs allow you to feel like you can catch on to it quickly which promotes confidence, inspiring words in songs are a source of comfort to me and maybe you too?!
I wrote the song “Learn to Fall” very simply, I didn’t think about it too much at all, at the time I wasn’t sure where it came from – somewhere in my subconscious. Like many songs it’s set up as a song talking about love, but in my Embracing Change workshops I talk about many lessons in life we can use when listening to the lyrics of the song. The lyrics talk about metaphorically learning to fall and “not having it all” when so often today we are encouraged to go and get what we want, whatever we want and if you don’t have the skills there’s probably a course out there to show you how to do it, even in love! I don’t know how comfortable I am with the idea of someone systematically learning how to fall in love or attract someone, for me it goes against nature and our natural instinct.
“Learn to Fall” talks about learning to forgive and not being proud, we all have to go down at some point in our lives. My favourite line is “it’s time to lose face before it’s too late”. I blatantly wrote the song about myself (at the time). We can get so wrapped up in the idea of always having to “stay strong” because if we do we’ll crumble and never be able to get back up again! How many of us have been told “don’t let it bother you” or “don’t show you’re upset” when faced with a difficult situation. I did this for years, until I used to tip over the edge at some point, when actually if I had have just said how I was feeling at the time, a lot of effort would have been saved. Taking care of ourselves daily is a lot easier than waiting until it’s too hard to know where to start.
You can listen to “Learn to Fall” below or on the music player on the website here and please share your stress relief tips too!