Tag Archives: stress

The Benefits of Resetting

Pots boiling over. Tea kettles screaming to be heard. Every line racing to red. Pressure valves begging for release.

We have all felt the strain of inescapable compression. Bands tighten around temples as blood vessels constrict. Faces flush and jaws clench. Shoulders tense as teeth shave enamel.

These desperate attempts to hide our particular brand of bats in our carefully decorated belfries are rarely successful and often dangerous.

When the gasket is finally blown, picking up the pieces is more complicated than reaching for the nearest dustbin. Damages are felt more than seen, and the gritty residue left behind has an odd habit of clinging to the cavities.

So what’s the plan of attack? How can we combat the feeling of impending doom before we’re pulled underwater by a false sense of limited oxygen?

Like every unresponsive phone or frozen computer screen…just reset.

Even though we’re made of cells and blood instead of slots and bytes, the fix takes a similar form.

Stop. Close your eyes. Inhale. Exhale.

It’s incredible to feel the cure. So many of us are walking through the world, unaware that we’ve forgotten to breathe. We unconsciously shorten our intake when we’re worried, working, and stressed. Sometimes even intense focus can produce the same effect. It’s not our fault. It’s our formula.

So the next time your nerves are knocked into overdrive or you feel a seed of rage starting to sprout. Take a beat, and take a breath.

Adolescence Interrupted

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In Fits and Starts

bumps

Momentum is a dynamic thing. Valleys frequently follow hilltops, and there’s little we can do but ride the coaster. Positivity, focus, and motivation are excellent emotional catalysts, but the globe spins to its own drum beat, regardless of how many laws of attraction are added to our daily to-do lists. We can angst and fret and project and stress, or we can release what is beyond our control and wait to catch the next wave. The universal laws of balance have a way of working themselves out.

This is a classic “practice what you preach” cautionary tale, and it’s one I should shoot into my earholes post-haste. Who are these people who think about impending events the day before they occur, instead of months in advance? How are these unicorns bred to simply and casually adapt to unforeseen circumstances, as opposed to methodically planning every conceivable attack plan, should a situation arise that upsets the setup? Where is this flow that everyone is going with, and how can my brain get excited about taking a tube ride into river rapids? It all feels wildly precarious, yet many people seem to find the firmest ground when their feet aren’t planted.

Smooth roads are an illusion as tangible as total control. A burst of good news is routinely trailing behind discouragement and vice versa. Perhaps tunnel vision, eyes-on-the-prize thinking is the safest means of travel. An ostrich with its head in the sand never feels the rain fall.

But it never sees the sun rise.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Self-Esteem/Self-Confidence Paradox

paradox1“The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.”  -Carl Jung

There are no lies more damaging than the ones we tell ourselves. Living in a city of surface judgments and split-second perceptions, I have felt the weight of my cloak getting increasingly burdensome. The assertiveness of my projections is being tested against the veracity of my core, and that dizzying dance is beginning to take its toll.

Honoring the guts of the gadget is loving the machine. We’re not only luster and smiles, but rusted gears and loosened bolts. Parading ourselves as showroom-ready when we’re barely rental-lot level overtaxes the battery and burns out the engine.

This fight is a daily push-and-pull of expectations and introspective criticism, while strapping on specific masks most suitable for the occasion. I’m a born pugilist, but I’ve taken some critical blows. The dormant ego has long been jockeying for position and there’s significant stress on the dam. Cracks are inevitable.

Stockpiling worry and wonder has done some irreparable physical damage, and my neck, shoulders, and spine are paying the price for a lifetime of carrying baggage beyond my frame’s tolerance. But I will continue to drag those stones up the mountain because my brain has prescribed the pain, and this parading false exterior dutifully follows doctor’s orders.

My hope for all of us is that the road begins to level and the load learns to lighten. Some of that is circumstantial, but the bulk of the work hinges on our willingness to solve a puzzle by compartmentalizing the good and the grime.

The value we place on our stressors is imaginary and fleeting, but the trick is explaining that concept to biological circuitry specifically programmed to tie knots in the rope.

Stress Reprieve-r

rocks1I’m probably not alone at the start of a new year in feeling like there is a disturbing lack of daily equilibrium, and my colossal list of hopes and aspirations sometimes gets buried beneath the chaos.

We love to hit the ground running, chasing our resolutions with the speed of Hermes, determined to check each box before our energy fades or resolve wanes. We sprint after the better versions of ourselves, committed to fresh perspectives, remodeled work ethics, and the blind attainment of concocted goals.

But, there is a beauty in the balance.

Unless we are faced with tangible deadlines, our stress is our own creation. We berate ourselves for not accomplishing imaginary undertakings and then we let that disappointment fester until obstacles grow to slow our progress. We intentionally watered those seeds to ensure that our momentum would be stalled. Why?

Perhaps there is something innately human about the act of shooting ourselves squarely in the feet. I don’t often see other species carry on like this, so I have to assume the Homo sapien brain is hardwired to erect mountains from molehills and turn cracks into chasms. We need to feel like Rocky clobbering Creed or the monotony of our daily pedestrian activities doesn’t measure up to the daydream fantasy.

I am currently in the middle of some significantly stressful challenges, elevated by my own compulsive need for control in an uncontrollable arena. So I am fighting the battles worth winning and relinquishing the rest. It feels counterintuitive, but I trust there is a bigger picture still waiting to be painted.

I will continue breathing and finding that balance. When that’s less than successful, hurling myself around a tennis court for hours seems to be an adequate alternative.

Sharpened Perspective

Thank you for being a wonderful mother

It’s often too easy to get lost in the mundanity of daily life. The interval between turning a white noise sleep machine off and turning it on again can feel like a timeless loop of repetitive habits, vibrating on skipping needles, powered by hamster wheels.

My Groundhog Days are normally of little concern. I accept that baby steps lead to Olympian leaps, so I tackle my routine tasks and always sweat the small stuff. As a writer and proofreader, details are kind of a big deal. These are my cards, and I’m happy to play them.

But, sometimes—even when the marathon tennis sessions have beaten my body and emptied my energy reserves—I find myself squirming inside my skin for a change of pedestrian pace.

Normally, I ignore these impulses and continue punching computer keyboards in my never-ending attempt to accumulate tension headaches. But, two weeks ago, I was delivered a surprise fuel injector in the form of a fellow tennis aficionado from NY with the desert on her mind and a pro tournament in her sights.

Mom knows just when to rescue her overthinking, word wrestler of a son from his stationary bike, and exactly how to throw some excitement and a change of scenery into the mix.

It was just what the proverbial doctor ordered, and I was able to unplug and detach from the busy, serpentine track of LA life.

My chiropractor believes that the mountains in Palm Springs have a way of inexplicably extracting the stress from our bodies and, although I don’t normally subscribe to  teachings of the mystic variety, I’d have to agree with him.

So, now it’s back to work and back to that hamster wheel. But, like mainlining lemon-lime Gatorade, I feel refreshed and ready for the race ahead.

Thanks, Mom…for always knowing what I need, even when I don’t.