January 4, 2015
Have you ever looked at a picture of Atlas, the mythological Greek figure carrying the weight of the planet on his shoulders and thought, Yeah, I can relate?
As an entrepreneur, it often feels like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Once you become the leader of a company, you feel a responsibility to employees, their families, your customers and your family. You worry about not having enough money for payroll or rent at the end of the month, the irate customer, maxed-out credit cards, creating new business opportunities and fitting in a life outside the office.
Yes, entrepreneurship is stressful and it can beat you down sometimes. But your company is part of who you are. So to become the best version of yourself, find a way to destress and regain some balance in your life.
Over the years, I’ve dealt with stress in many ways: running, exercising, visualization, drinking inordinate amounts of chamomile tea and even laughing it off with Family Guy. All these things helped me feel calmer for a while, but none has contributed to my success quite like practicing the Alexander technique.
Developed in the late 19th century by Frederick Matthias Alexander, the Alexander technique involves mindfully trying to rid the body of harmful muscular and mental tension to overcome stress, redirect energy, correct bad posture, eliminate back pain and improve mental clarity. This practice is time-efficient, portable and easy to learn.
I began practicing the Alexander technique with an instructor about a year ago. Since then, I’ve had noticeably better vocal control and inflection. I feel that this practice has improved my public-speaking skills and helped me think more clearly in tense or high-pressure situations. And it’s helped me find balance in life. Each session lets me relax my body, center my mind and achieve a sense of peace, despite my high-stress entrepreneurial endeavors.
The Alexander technique can work for anyone in any industry and it’s easy to get started.
1. Find an instructor.
I strongly recommend finding a certified instructor to guide you through your first few attempts. As is the case for yoga, the Alexander technique is something you’ll be able to do on your own after a few well-explained sessions.
2. Master lie downs.
The Alexander technique consists of two basic components, the first of which is the lie down. To give it a try, sit two or three books on a relatively hard surface and lie down with your head on the books.
Put your hands on your chest with your knees up and feet flat on the ground. Your eyes can be open or closed, but don’t go to sleep. Breathe normally and release yourself into gravity’s hold, letting your body's weight settle into the floor. This will rest and realign the parts of your body that are constantly being used for stabilization when you’re upright.
3. Release your tension.
The second component of the Alexander technique is learning how to release the neck. You aim to release (not just relax) the atlantooccipital joint that controls the muscular tension throughout the entire body.
While in the lie-down position, feel the muscles at the top of your spine by placing your fingers in your ears and thinking about the joint between your fingers (a little bump where your spine connects). Then, focus on releasing all muscular tension in that area while breathing deeply. Once an instructor guides you through this move a few times, you’ll be able to do it easily on your own.
There are many ways to destress, but I’ve never found a method as effective and far-reaching as the Alexander technique. By learning how to relax the muscles throughout your entire body on command, you can also gain control of your voice, posture, energy and overall stress. It’s the one tool that might truly help you take the weight off your shoulders and become a better, more successful you.