Rolling over onto my left side in the early morning on May 20, 2021, I felt awkwardness around my left ear. Turns out, it was numb. But why?

I knew I was dealing with some tension, but who isn’t?

I called an acupuncturist and my doctor in search of solutions. 

Bracing & Breathing Through Discomfort 

After answering questions about my stress level and experience with acupuncture, I got on the treatment table.

“So, you had acupuncture before… you ok with needles then?” Jinwa, my new, Chinese-trained acupuncturist asked.

“No, no… no, I’m not. But, hopefully it helps…”  

We laughed as I slammed my eyelids shut, bracing for (and breathing through) the discomfort. 

But the needles are tiny, Misti, you might be thinking, certainly they don’t hurt that much. 

Oh, yes they do! I felt like an overstuffed pin cushion with syringes lodged everywhere from my temple to my feet.

“Last one, I promise… You do good! Be back in twenty minutes.” Jinwa said, twirling the heating lamp over my belly.

Sometimes We Need Help With The Discomfort

I lasted twenty seconds before calling her back into the room.

“This needle is too painful.” I said, motioning toward the needle in my right wrist.

“Oh, yeah… that’s the point for sleep.” she said, and then removed it.

Forty-five seconds later…



“Can you turn down the intensity on the electric stimulation machine? It’s too much.”

“Of course.” she said. “This okay?”

“A little lower please.”


“A little more.”

“It’s off,” she said, with a look of bewilderment.

Exactly the way it should be, I thought… the needles, by themselves, are enough! 

“You okay now?” she asked, after putting the stimulation on the lowest level. 

“I’m okay,” I lied, and then started willing myself to relax. 

Relaxing Can Be Hard Work

Why does it have to be so hard to relax? I mean, I know it’s a pandemic, but that’s not the point. Shouldn’t I be able to relax, especially given that I had a home, food, and a loving spouse? 

What’s my deal? I caught myself thinking, as I did my best to keep my breathing shallow, lest I disturb the needles.

Twenty-five minutes later, the timer went off.

“If still numb in morning,” Jinwa said, “then you go to doctor… the pressure might be coming from inside your head.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“Could be tumor… Let’s see how you feel in morning.”

Pressure, Stress & Tension: What Causes Them?

A tumor? Seriously?

Something felt off about that, but honestly I couldn’t tell you which was worse; a tumor or tension. Either way, it was clear that significant change was needed… but what?

When I woke up the next morning, thankfully the feeling had returned to my ear. Now I just needed to figure out what was causing the tension. 

What causes tension for any of us?

Stress was the easy answer. But what causes stress? 

Difficult circumstances, I thought, like a pandemic! But does that truly cause stress, or the resulting tension? 

How about the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, the pressures of managing a household, or the jerks who cut you off in traffic? 

Situations That Cause Tension

Do these situations cause tension? I thought carefully before answering my own question…

No, life’s events do not cause tension, but how we relate to life’s circumstances does. 

If Victor Frankl and Edith Eger could translate their concentration camp experience into a life ripe with meaning, surely we can triumph through our circumstances—and even find comfort, in discomfort.

Perhaps learning to be more okay with ourselves, life’s events, and the fears that pop up out of uncertainty, could reduce tension in the body. Accepting life on life’s terms, and ourselves as we are… could that lead to a reduction in stress? 

As it turns out, yes. Here’s how…

How To Reduce Tension In The Body

Awareness of the tension, and resulting pain/discomfort, in our bodies can serve as a cue to pause and listen–to the body and our thinking. In the pause, notice your disagreement with the way things are. 

For example, I notice a lot of discomfort around–

  1. Mask-wearing, when the pandemic will end, and being in this in-between phase.  
  2. Buying a new home, and being in the in-between phase of where we will live.  
  3. My career, and feeling like I’m in-between. 

In-between… that’s what I resist, which is what causes the tension. I want to know, for sure, when we will find the right house, the final vaccine, and the clearest way to describe what I do and market my services. 

I’m tired of all the uncertainty. I’m tired of not knowing.

Can you relate?

Of course you can!

But, here’s the deal…

It’s not the truth of all the uncertainty that’s harmful to us… it’s resisting the reality that we don’t know. 

Resisting the uncertainty gives us a feeling of control; letting go of our resistance provokes an uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability. 

So–We have two choices. 

We can acknowledge and feel the discomforts associated with not knowing, and allow it to leave us feeling vulnerable. Or, we avoid, resist, and push against the experience, and wind up tense, sick, frustrated, and hard to be around. 

Of course, we all vacillate between these two; often without knowing it. The opportunity lies in being honest with ourselves about where we are, and deciding which of the two responses will help us most. 

What about you? How do you handle stress, tension and discomfort? Do you ask for help? How have your problems helped you?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Here’s to your greatness, 

Misti Burmeister

Misti Burmeister has been facilitating communication that results in trust and connection for nearly 20 years, increasing engagement and productivity across generations. Make sure your communication is coming across the way you intend, visit