Lighten Your Load

How To Move Through Life Without Adding Tension


Years ago when I was just beginning my relationship with stress reduction, one of my main issues was deep, long-term tightness and tension in my upper back, neck, and shoulders. I was thrilled when my alternative practitioner suggested that I get monthly massages to maintain the health of my muscle tissue. Like, THRILLED. She also gave me a couple ideas on how to change my routine to reduce the load on my upper body. After trying some things and noticing how helpful it was, my awareness was shifted and I began to look for ways to lighten my load in all kinds of situations! It almost became a game (and it still is!) Like… How can I perform this task in a way that doesn’t add extra stress to my neck and shoulders? Here are some of the things I’ve come up with along the way.... And I’d love to hear ideas if you have others! 

Here are some of the things I do…

  • Carry a smaller purse or work bag - PEOPLE. I am all about being prepared and having my sh*t together. But we don’t. Need. These. Enormous. Bags. This was the absolute first thing I changed and I’m never going back!! My doctor looked in my work bag and was like “you don’t need all this stuff” - she wasn’t wrong. Shoes, computer, notebooks, lunch, who knows what else!! Turns out, once I ditched the huge bag, I didn’t actually need or miss any of the stuff that was in there… You can get by with a wristlet! If you do need to carry a few things, pick the essentials and leave the rest! 

  • Use a Grocery Cart (not basket) - this I will not budge on. Use the cart. There are small carts, there are big carts. We always over-fill those arm baskets. Why would you carry something that adds immense stress to your neck and shoulders when you can carry… nothing? Just grab a freaking cart, and as soon as you get your cart, put whatever’s on your shoulder into it!

  • Be careful when lifting bags in and out of the car. This actually came up in yoga therapy… Sometimes we get into patterns that we think make our life easier and save us time, but what they’re doing under the surface is creating dysfunction in our bodies. Think repetitive stress! Think about what happens every time you park the car, reach around to the back seat, and pull your heavy bag through to the front - over time this causes wear and tear on our muscles and joints in the wrist, arm, and shoulder, but also think about the awkward, uneven weight-bearing twist that’s happening in your spine and neck! It may seem more inconvenient to walk around and get it from the back door…. But you know what else is inconvenient? Pain and tension!

  • When you MUST carry an enormous bag: Frequently switch which shoulder you carry it on. Self-explanatory! 

  • Wheely bags. Wheely bags are your best friend on trips. When Dave was in training at Quantico I used to fly down all the time and I had a vera bradley bag that I always used (I still have and love this bag!) BUT my shoulders literally couldn’t take it anymore. My entire body suffered due to my love of this bag. So I bought a cheap rolling suitcase from the kids’ section at Target and I have not looked back! Traveling is stressful enough on the body, don’t add to it with your bag choices! 

  • Use a big bag that goes over your shoulder for groceries. So I realize this is weight-bearing… However, when the load is closer to your body, it’s an easier load for the muscles and joints (this is exercise science). Think big bag on the shoulder vs. a ton of those tiny bags filled with heavy things like pasta sauce and milk. The tiny bags down at your hand will pull more on the joint and muscles since they are farther away from your body. Go for the shoulder bag! 

  • Let people help you. Did you just buy something big and heavy? Did the staff offer to help you to your car? Can we start saying yes? Can we say thank you when people want to hold the door for us so we don’t have to struggle with our stuff? 

The main points are - don’t bring what you don’t need, and think about lightening your load whenever you can!

I share these tips with love since they are mini changes I have been making to reduce my load over the last several years! They have seriously helped me and I hope even one of these things helps you, too! Don’t worry about being perfect, just make a point to be mindful!! Your neck, shoulders, and upper back will thank you :) 

Let me know which of these you try! 

Be Well,