Fiddle Beads

Lately I have been reflecting a lot about the mind-body connection, and I am gradually learning to pay more attention to my own body and its signals.

I always believed that I enjoyed large crowds of people, for example, but when I was at World Domination Summit just recently, I had a bit of an epiphany. I was in Portland for the conference, and we had been given a break for lunch. I had walked down to the area where there were a number of food carts, and was standing in line with a friend waiting for food. The scene was bright, busy, noisy, and packed. It was basically what I would call a high-stimulus environment.

I was tired and hungry, but enjoying the noisy chaos and having a great time people-watching in the crowd. I was also starting to perform some self-checks: how was I doing, physically? At the time I was taking a stimulant medication to help my focus, and I would have to periodically stop, check my physical state, and see if the medication was still effective or if it was wearing off. I also needed to monitor that I was getting enough to drink, that I was getting enough calories, and to judge my overall exhaustion level. I had also just been through an intense emotional near-breakup with a lover and close friend, and though we had made up, my emotions were on the volatile side.

As I was standing there in the line, I used the pause in the frenetic pace of the day to mentally assess my physical state. What I wasn’t looking for, and was surprised to find, was a great deal of tension in my body. I found that I had my hands tightly wrapped around my cell phone, that my shoulder muscles were tense and my shoulders were lifted toward my head, that my stomach was clenched, and my heart rate was high. As I stood there with the crowd rushing all around me, I thought, “Wow, I’m really happy, but my body is telling me that I’m under a lot of stress.” It began to gradually dawn on me that while I love high stimulation, it can also be very stressful.

I found myself wishing a had a stress ball to squeeze or some kind of toy to fiddle with. As I stood there thinking about it, I envisioned the bracelet pictured above. This is just an inexpensive piece of costume jewelry, but I liked the thought that I could wear it on my wrist and have it handy if I were to encounter another stressful situation.

Later in the weekend, I noted that Jacqueline Carly and Chris Brogan both were wearing similar bracelets of wooden beads. I asked about them, and they told me that theirs are called “prayer beads,” and I’m pretty sure I have seen and heard of these before. I made the connection also to the rosaries of my Catholic past, and the way people use the tactile feel of the beads passing through their fingers to focus and meditate or pray.

Edit: Jacqueline has been kind enough to send me the link to the Etsy store where she purchases her bracelets. She gets them from @lovepray. They’re actually called “Mala bracelets.” Check them out here: Lovepray Jewlery

I prefer to think of mine as “fiddle beads,” since I mostly want to use them as something to fiddle with in my hands when I have nervous energy or when I want to calm myself. I feel like calling them “prayer beads” is a little too religious for me.

I am wearing my bracelet now and have been trying this out as a new coping strategy for the last few days. I’ll try to post an update in the future to let you know if the beads are working, but in the meantime, I wanted to post the strategy. I’d like to ask you to monitor yourself the next time you are in a highly stimulating environment with a lot of bustle and noise. Is your body tense? Does fiddling with an object, like a string of beads, help bring you any relief?

If the beads don’t work, I’m going to try Silly Putty next. I seem to remember that being a great thing to fiddle with during boring college classes!

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