I began the rough draft of my blog about stress last week before I left town. I was gone for 5 days and my experience while on the road was a mixture of great peace, followed by quite a few stressful moments. My drive to Kentucky was safe, uneventful, and pleasant. The evening I arrived, I had dinner and hung out for a while with a very dear friend. This young woman, who is awake and alert, always contributes to my sense of well-being. The next morning I had breakfast with two more friends who are filled with light and peace. So, my journey started out in a positive state, but as the day progressed on Sunday it quickly went downhill.
Without going into a lot of detail, suffice it to say, that I was presented with many opportunities to look at how I react to stressful events, places, and people. Sunday afternoon, and Monday and Tuesday, played out like a comedy of errors. It was Wednesday morning before I was able to find a quiet place to breathe, go within, and start to make sense out of all that transpired.
What I learned is how easy it is to slide down the slippery slope of tension and reaction when I’m in negative, dark situations. I lose my sense of balance, and before I know it I’m caught up in the negativity that surrounds me. When that happens, my ability to focus on the light within diminishes, and I find myself in a fight or flight moment. If I’m in a place I can leave, I do, if I cannot, I start fighting. When I wind up fighting stress, the result is a weakened self and total fatigue. By time I got home on Wednesday, I was so drained I had to lay down and take a nap. Today is Saturday, and I’m still feeling the effects of stress in my body. I’m taking it easy while I love and nurture myself back into a state of well-being.
I clearly see that no matter how much I know about myself, and how to deal with stress, it still can creep up on me and overtake me. When that happens I feel like I’m in a pressure cooker with the valve closed. Since I’m in the process of de-stressing, this is a good time to remind myself how to open the valve so the steam can escape. I write about what I most need to learn or remember, so here’s what I was reminded of last week.
My first lesson to remember is that there are energy vampires out there. These are people, who due to their own lack of light and consciousness, feed on others light. When I see a vampire, I don’t need to spend time looking for a silver cross to slay their darkness, I just need to keep my distance. I have a habit of approaching vampires thinking I’ll be okay because I’m spiritually strong, only to remember later that vampire energy can be powerful, and when I’m not paying attention, I get wiped out by it. (No, I do not believe in real vampires.)
My second lesson to remember is to find a quiet place and take a few deep breaths while doing the thymus thump. The thymus gland, located about 2 inches below the collarbone in the middle of the chest, distinguishes cells as a friend or foe, and exports T-cells to destroy foreign cells. The thymus helps fight infection and disease, and is one of the first organs to be impacted by stress. Under stress, ignoring the body’s needs can become a habit, and it can weaken the immune system. The thymus thump is done by tapping on the area, or pounding it with a clenched fist. Dr. John Diamond points out that the smile muscle, the zygomaticus major, is directly connected to the thymus gland, so I smile and say ha-ha-ha while thumping. See http://www.wellnessworkers.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=21&Itemid=70 for more information on the thymus thump.
My third lesson to rememberis to re-frame the event. Sometimes I get caught up in the event, and I forget that I can re-frame it. What re-framing involves is changing the way I look at what’s happening. When I can do that, I get to change the experience. Through re-framing I can turn a negative event into a learning situation.
Some of the methods I use for re-framing are:
I examine my thought process about the event…can I change the way I’m thinking about it?
I journal…many times, writing about an event or a person helps me to focus on what I need to see.
I breathe and purposefully drop my shoulders and relax my neck…on purpose, deep breathing from the belly, enables me to get quiet within so I can view a situation or person in peace, instead of in turmoil.
I bless the person or event…the simple act of blessing someone or something, many times changes my perspective.
I talk to myself and say, “Stop”, or “Slow down”. This is especially good when I”m caught in traffic, and I need to get somewhere. I remind myself to just take a deep breath and enjoy the scenery, or take a few moments to relax. I purposefully unclench my hands and drop them to my lap. It is amazing what a difference this simple little act will do for your body and your mind.
I accept what is at the moment…can I change what’s happening, or do I even need to change it? If not, simply saying a prayer of gratitude and acceptance can change the event.
I get up and stretch my body or go for a walk. This is a good stress reliever. I stretch by bending back as far as I can go, then by bending forward while trying to put my hands flat on the floor without bending my knees. I do this 2 or 3 times. If the tension is in my neck, I turn my neck from one side to the other, slowly, and as far as I can. I then bend my head forward and hold it there for a few seconds, followed by leaning my head back as far as I can. Taking a short walk outside while paying attention to nature can be relaxing also.
Stress is a part of life, it’s universal, and it’s not all bad. There are healthy stress levels, called eustress, which sometimes protects us and mobilizes us when we’re in danger. Good stress can add flavor and zest to life, and it can motivate us to try something different. We can compare levels of stress to guitar strings. Each string is a different size and requires a different amount of tension. Tightening one string too much will cause it to snap, and if the string is too loose it will make a different sound.
It’s important to watch that stress does not elevate to the point where we experience chronic fatigue, insomnia, bruxism (grinding our teeth while sleeping), memory loss, and burnout. When we do find that we’re experiencing too much stress, it’s good to practice using one or more of the de-stressors listed above. As you can tell from my story about what happened last week, sometimes I forget to re-frame or do the thymus thump, and I wind up getting caught in the quagmire. When that happens, all I know to do is regroup and get myself back on track. Hopefully, next time I find myself in a negative, dark situation, I’ll remember what I already know, and I’ll stay focused and maintain my peace.
My prompts last week were pad and storm.