Letting go physically is a matter of stress release. Under stress your body tenses and contracts; breathing gets ragged and shallow; hormonal balances switch from their normal levels to the hypervigilant state of fight of flight. You cannot cope with all of this at once. In the overall plan taking part in a stress management program is a long-term commitment you should make, whether through meditation, yoga, or countless other options.
Stress is ongoing; therefore reducing stress also needs to be ongoing. In the short run letting go of stress involves relaxing. Take deep, measured breaths, letting the breath go free on the exhale. Lie down if you can and allow release to take place for as long as it needs to.
Signs of good release are yawning, sighing, silent sobs, coughing, sneezing, and feeling sleepy. Let your body do any or all of these things.
Other means of physical release besides breathing include laughing, screaming, shouting, taking a walk, swimming, taking a long bath, dancing, and doing aerobics.
Shaking out the stress does in fact work, at least partially. The intention here is to let your body release what it wants to. Your body doesn’t like holding on to stress; it does so essentially at the urging of the mind. Taking your mind off the situation and letting your body release its excess energies is a valuable step.
Under really extreme stress, walk away from the situation – tell anyone else who is involved that you need to be alone for a while to get your bearings. Offer reassurance that you will be back, and even if the other person puts pressure on you to stay, give yourself permission to do what you need to do for your own well-being.
Adapted from The Path to Love, by Deepak Chopra (Three Rivers Press, 1997).