“Do all the women you know have such tense backs?”

I didn’t know how to answer her question, especially since I’m a massage therapist, and who else comes to a massage therapist except women with tense backs?

“I know,” she answers for me. “They all do. We all do.” She sighs. It’s a heavy sigh. “The weight of a woman.”

I remainThe more one has, the more responsibilities silent for a minute as I continue to knead her shoulders. I think about what she said and about her sigh while saying it.

The Gemara (Berachot 58b) tells a story of two rabbis, Ula and Rav Chisda, who were traveling. When they passed by the desolate house of Rav Chana bar Chanilai, Rav Chisda sighed.

Ula: You should not sigh! Rav taught that sighing breaks half the body . . . ” [And according to the sage R. Yochanan:] It breaks the whole body . . . ”

Is it the challenge, the difficult situation, the test itself that breaks our bodies? Or is it the sigh—the way we perceive it—that does the breaking?

I woke up one morning to a flood in our home. The pipes under the sink were clogged, and water was coming up from under the floor. The same morning, our dryer broke beyond repair. Rent was due, and one of our children needed a private therapist. I felt my entire body go tense. My shoulders bent over. Pressure! Stress! I definitely sighed a heavy sigh that morning.

I closed my eyes and redirected my thinking. “Thank you, G‑d, that I woke up in the morning. I’m alive! I can see. I can walk.” I went through a list—a list that had no end. My back straightened up a bit, and I felt the muscles relax. “Look how much You do for me! Look how You always take care of me!” I started to think. “Is the fact that we had money last week for groceries no less of a miracle than having the money that we need for now?”

Tension left my body as I connected to the Source of all. My day continued. What had to get fixed, like the pipes, got fixed. What wasn’t an emergency, like the dryer, got put on hold. It wasn’t that our needs for money went away, but the pressure did, the stress. I let it all go. I took it off my shoulders as I realized it’s not me who’s carrying the burden. I realized I’m not in control.

The Levyim, the priestly tribe, were chosen to carry the holy tabernacle and all of its vessels. The ark itself had four poles with four Levites carrying the poles; however, as our sages explain, the four Levy men really didn’t carry the ark. Instead, the “ark carried its carriers.” The weight of the ark was so great there was no way four men could have possibly carried it. It was a miracle.

There is no doubt that the greater the person, the greater the responsibilities. So, too, the more one has, the more responsibilities. There is just so much toI let it all go; it’s not me who’s carrying the burden accomplish, so much to get done, so much to carry on our shoulders! We have spiritual, physical, financial and social responsibilities that seem way too much to bear. It’s true that life is a balancing act, and it takes patience, experience and wisdom to know when to say yes and when to say no, when to say “I can” and when to say “I can’t.”

But as a massage therapist, I’m going to tell you a secret (which might put me out of business) for relieving stress and tension. It’s a secret for dealing with life when it feels so overwhelming: You’ll only be able to carry the load if you realize that you’re not actually the one carrying it!

It’s the “sigh” that breaks the body, not the actually load.

Each morning, I say a list of blessings called birkat hashachar (the morning blessings). One of them is to thank G‑d for straightening the bowed/the bent-over. As I say this blessing, I silently pray: “Please G‑d, open my eyes to see that it is You who carrying the real weight of my shoulders! It is You who strengthens me and straightens me when I am bent. Give me the wisdom and the insight on how I can view this challenging situation in a positive light. Let me react to each test with an increase in faith . . . and not with a sigh.”