Sunday, April 28, 2013

I'm a lover, not a fighter- unless it's against my stress response...

Samskara saksat karanat purvajati jnanam. Through sustained focus and meditation on our patterns, habits, and conditioning, we gain knowledge and understanding of our past and how we can change the patterns that aren’t serving us to live more freely and fully.” ~ Yoga Sutra III.18

When you're truly living Svadhyaya or self-study & refinement, it becomes very easy to perceive the onset of negative emotions just as they are starting to brew. You identify what your triggers are and what the first symptoms of the "negative Nancies" are. Maybe you start to feel depressed or envious of richer, skinnier friends who all have a WAY more exciting Newsfeed than you and then decide right then and there to log out of Facebook and write down five things that you are grateful for in your own life. Or maybe you go out for "one drink" end up having three, and then decide instead of saying, "F it. I'm just gonna get wasted" you turn off the "Party Monster" go home and chug a green juice. Then thank yourself for having the ability to let loose and still avoid drinking more than you'll feel good about tomorrow. 

Today I happen to have a particularly difficult, aggressive, and persistent client having multiple crises one after another on this fine Sunday afternoon. Suddenly they need EVERYTHING IMMEDIATELY and I can almost feel the red exclamation point that accompanies their relentless emails burning a hole in my blackberry thumb. This is a pivotal moment for me. I can feel myself becoming tight in the chest. My little arm hairs start to poke up and breathing becomes labored. If I looked real hard at myself in the mirror I bet my pupils are totally dialated because my "Fight or Flight" response is in full effect. I'm tense, anxious and ready to pounce. My body is clearly flooding with adrenaline and all of a sudden, I don't feel nice and calm anymore. BUMMER.

If I had been a cavewoman, I would clearly have been the leader of the pack. I would survive saber tooth tiger attacks and be a formidable warrior in any hand-to-hand battles. My body is ready to fight at the drop of a hat, or perhaps the "ping" of an email. The problem is that unlike in man vs tiger fights, the perceived threats that cause me to spring into action aren't actually "real", and they don't have finite ends. When you fight a tiger, either you die, the tiger dies, or the tiger goes far, far away fast. When you're wrestling with work anxiety, you have to make a concerted effort to end the drama yourself, or your body and brain remain on high alert forever. And constant low-grade stress causes all sorts of lovely things including weight gain, hair loss, marital issues and...heart problems. 

It's not hyperbole to say that dealing with stress better is a matter of life or death for me. It most certainly is in a way that is palpable. Like literally, in I hear my heart palpitate and it tells me how important developing stress-cessation and management skills are. Outwardly, I'm super effective during stressful situations (smart! decisive! confident!) but on the inside, I'm totally freaking out. I'm a type A personality living in a body that has been diagnosed with a disorder that responds particularly poorly to any sudden/drastic changes in pace caused by stress, sports, rollercoasters, etc.  The good thing is that at least now that I know what I have, I know I can't let it get carried away. I put the blackberry away. I repeat a calming mantra. I tell myself that "just because problems exist, does not mean that it is my responsibility to solve them". 

My mantra in years past may have well been "if you gotta problem, YO I'll solve it." I relished in my ability to talk even the most high-strung friend or client off a ledge and to troubleshoot any problem for everyone I could whether or not it was my responsibility. Sure, it's good to be helpful and generous with your knowledge but not when it comes at the expense of your own sanity and health. My stress hormones are DEFINITELY "wasters of my flavor" and probably the biggest foe I'll ever have to fight. The first step to healing is admitting you have a problem, right? 

Hi everyone. My name is Amanda and I'm a stressaholic. I can't say I've been "stress free" for any consecutive days, but I am working on it. If you have a tendency to anxiety/stress- whether it's from boys, money, or your job- I implore you to read this article. It's empowering to know what stress does to you, so you can become serious about trying not to let it. Samskara saksat karanat purvajati jnanam

"Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha" -Yoga Sutra 1.1
Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.