Stressed About Being Stressed


I started taking dance lessons when I was about five years old and immediately took to it. I was fortunate to have a mother who loved all the arts and she encouraged me to explore as many as possible. When I was eleven she took me to my first Broadway show. I’m sure that was the beginning of my passion for being a performer. I did not end up being on Broadway, but much of what I learned dancing and watching performances became a part of my stress management techniques.

What most people don’t realize about their stress is that we become habituated to how we perceive what stresses us. We use the same responses over and over and as a result, we get the same outcomes. As I became more proficient in understanding the “stress response”, I decided to try some things that would certainly be perceived as “outside the box”.

One woman in one of the workshops I was doing spent a great deal of time worrying. She actually raised the level to new heights by worrying about her constant worrying. By our final day together, after we’d gone through several different ideas and techniques, she was feeling that nothing could help her.

I decided to divide the group into ten teams of five people each. I told them to pick one group member’s stressor to create a dance around. I had a great assortment of music with me that featured a lot of drumming and rhythm. I told the participants to choose one of my costumes (of which I have many) or arrange their own clothing in an unusual way.

Of course there were all kinds of excuses “ I don’t know if I can do this”, “I have two left feet, “ “This feels strange,”..all of which I ignored. We so love to stay in our safety zone, even if it’s not working for us.

The most amazing dance came from my friend the worrier and her group. They started in a corner and moved with furrowed brows and their hands on their temples feigning despair. In movement they were able to effectively demonstrate the pain and destructiveness of worry.

But even more profound was the way this creative exercise changed the woman’s perception of how and what she worried about. I saw her almost six months later, and she said it literally changed her thinking. She now saw her role in continuing the “dance of worry”, and the terrible effects it had on her life. That recognition helped her gain control over her obsessive behavior.

Perhaps dancing one of your stressors just might allow you to get some distance from it. If nothing else you just might get the opportunity to laugh at yourself, which is just as important!

About lorettalaroche

An international stress management and humor consultant whose wit, and irreverent humor, has, for over 30 years raised the humor potential in all of us. She is on the Mass General advisory council for anxiety and depression and was recently awarded the National Humor Treasure Award. Loretta writes a weekly newspaper column called, 'Get a Life'.
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