There’s that popular Kelly McGonigal Ted Talk about stress showing us how stress could actually be our friend. And although it often doesn’t make you feel like how a friend would make you feel, stress has a way to show you what your potential is and even push you BEYOND YOUR PERCEIVED LIMITS.
Yogi Bhajan defined stress as when your internal resources do not meet the external forces. This is certainly a way to look at stress instead of the external, uncontrollable, unpredictable, disruptor of life and all things good kind of way. I mean there are so many means and methods that address stress these days, from meditation apps, to getting more sleep, acupuncture, creative expression, dance, physical activity, so many ways yet these ways just address what stress feels like and not the actual stressor itself. Stress does not go away when only applying anti-stressor means, it may just calm down a little, or maybe it will just change it’s face.
And so how do you deal with the actual stressor when you are not in said control of this external force? Well, this past year has been one of the, if not the, most stressful time of my life. And I had limited access and time to things that helps to mitigate my stress like yoga classes, daily meditation, or even regular sleep. If needed, I couldn’t even go towards escapism or any mood changing activities like walks in the city, long hikes, or outings with friends.
I did however bury myself in details, obligations, and responsibilities, I thought that if I did, I wouldn’t have to feel anything because I was distracted. I quickly realized the reason I buried myself was because I knew I could stay focused, heart centered, and communicate clearly while still having my own experience, and at the same time, offering my loved ones the space to also have their own experience.
We all had to be face to face with our stressors, every day, and learned a different level of acceptance, perspective, and compassion. I knew I had to pay attention to how I was feeling, and allow myself the ability to feel and at the same time, I also had to learn that I needed to let others feel their feelings too. I knew I couldn’t keep anything inside, and so I had to practice humility and ask for help, and to freely be open, and share. And to ask others to share too. I learned compassionate listening as everyone else was going through their own sensation of what deep pain meant to them.
Stress surmounted every day and there were a few things that kept me stable, and also kept me in a feeling and compassionate state. They were these - First, cleanliness. I didn’t realize how much this helped but having things in order reduced the stress I was experiencing because there was no effort in finding things. Also, self cleanliness and treating it as an act of self care as it is. I took cold showers, massaged my body with oil, and brushed my hair. This kept me in my senses as we often detach when in trauma. I also relate this to order as I kept everyone on schedule so every day, we could prepare for what was in store with what resources we had.
Secondly, I practiced expressing how I feel and also asking and listening to how others feel. Conscious and honest communication also reduced stress as there was no energy spent holding things in, or in not understanding another.
I also focused on what I could control with my nutrition - low caffeine, low sugar diet, and lots of water and fruits. Increase the alkalinity of my intake as to reduce inflammation naturally occurring due to stress. Increase anti inflammatory foods, like turmeric and ginger, chia seeds, avocado, and greens. No big fuss, just a directed approach. There were times I ate donuts (my father loved donuts), and I enjoyed it while maintaining a certain awareness. You’d be surprised how much time and energy we put into our food choices throughout the day. Not expending it in this way, gives me greater resources otherwise.
And of course, movement. Every day whether it be stretching, yoga, breath work, or martial arts. Do something every day to sweat. The movement, like the self massage, cold showers, kept me in my body and so nothing ever accumulated too much that I had a breaking point again allowing me a greater capacity to not resist and flow,
As for tools, I relied on my lavender oil, my tuning fork, my rose quartz facial guasha, and lacrosse ball. These tools also kept me in my body through different senses, reminding me to be present. And so you see, I used what was readily available to me and I felt strong in the process.
What to try and stay away from when highly stressed are also things we may turn to - such as television, video games, technology. This makes great sense because as then we ‘tune in’ to these frequencies, our brain waves start to relax naturally as technology puts us in an alpha wave state. And at the same time, if this is your default for all stressors, without feeling into the stressed state, it could be more difficult to address stress when it comes, as if your nervous system is on a consistent and high alert.
Peter Levine states that when we don’t feel safe in our bodies, we compartmentalize this trauma or stressor, become stuck in an incomplete cycle, and are never present in the present, later leading to triggered states.
I still get stressed thinking about it all and even in writing this, there is a clump in my throat. And so with this sensation, I know first to share what I am feeling, and now that I am done writing, I will perform my nightly routine of lavender oil, face massage and lymph drainage, and tuning fork, finished by deep diaphragmatic breathing with my hand over my heart. This technique alone helps me become present and in a more compassionate state.
And so while the whole concept of making stress my friend is a bit of an overstretch for me, I can see how stress increases my resiliency and also teaches me new ways to address external pressure. Over time, I notice more readily when I am entering my default state, running for the escape route, or when I feel settled enough in my body to address perceived stress. I suppose in a way, that’s what friends do.
MAY MONTHLY WELLS
Featuring 'MAY WELLS' of information to complement your WELLNESS in line with this month’s topic of STRESS.
BEAUTY WELL - Use this cooling, soothing, rose quartz to increase stimulation, and smooth out fine lines, and reduce facial muscular tension often experienced when stressed. Click on image to order.
EAT WELL - Celery juice has many benefits including reducing anxiety and also providing even levels of energy throughout the day. Important to stay away form caffeine when stressed, and celery juice does the trick and much more. Click on image for more info.
LISTEN WELL - Tuning forks are a great way to not only energetically clear your space, but it calms your nervous system while creating a feeling or calmness and centeredness. Choose a frequency more grounding in times of stress. Click on image to order.
MOVE WELL - TFL - tensor fascia latae often causes great tension in the hips for when you are an active runner, or sitting for long periods of time. Many of us also hold emotional tension in our hips, causing great discomfort. This area is especially difficult to access for release but I will show you one positioning that can offer greater access, using a lacrosse ball.
In addition, here are some links to topics mentioned such as a past weblog discussing the KELLY MCGONIGAL TED TALK, some benefits of TUNING FORKS, a brief video of PETER LEVINE demonstrating how trauma gets stuck in the body, an informative pictogram on the BENEFITS OF COLD SHOWERS and I have also included a video of MY NIGHTLY ROUTINE.
Dip into any WELL that you may need more of and enJOY your PATH of WELLNESS