Do you ever find yourself in what appears to be a never ending cycle of rumination? You know, the ‘thought patterns’ or ‘thought trains’ that appear to go on forever? This can range from a stressor in your life to your recurrent “to do” list... As the holidays are fastly approaching, perhaps this has increased in your life.
Do your thoughts just play out over and over in your head? Sometimes it can be the same scenario that repeats itself or perhaps sometimes your mind goes through different outcomes stemming from the same all consuming initial thought?
Sometimes I'll find this happens to me where then I will become so entranced by my thoughts that I teleport while driving. I will end up at my location with very little (almost concerning) amounts of awareness of the journey to this destination.
So what brings me to this 'thought train' this week? Well I am taking a new class in school that is called preventative health. I was excited about going into this class as I thought it would teach me more tools to apply to my own life, those around me life and learn techniques to help my future clients. Equipping me with tools that allow us all to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to our health.
Here I was thinking I was handling my life pretty well. Especially as I am in a huge transitional shift in my life. I am in this new adventure that I am thrilled about so what is there to be stressed about right? My changes include shifts in my career and education focus which is both exhilarating and stressful.
In this class we were simply going through an objective stressor questionnaire to quantify one's level of stress. Sidenote: I have attached a link here in the event you are curious to view your stress levels on paper. This revealed my life on paper in a different way than I perceived it.
What I learned was that I was comparing my level of stress to some of the most stressful moments in my life. However, I think that is the wrong approach, at least for myself. We are all different after all and I can recognize that other people may use a different metric to view their life as an outsider looking inwards, and adjust their stress and energy levels differently. In terms of stress, one could compare it to the: optimists versus pessimists. By that I mean, how do you look at the glass? Is it half full or half empty?
This questionnaire revealed to me that I needed to flip my perspective. Instead of comparing my level of stress and management to high peaks of cortisol release, I should be comparing it to my baseline -- times of feeling relaxed and as cool as a cucumber.
Then I asked myself: "Sky who are you when you feel under control, with minimal stressor's, when breathing is easy, meditation is achievable, practice is fluid, when you feel lightest, able, capable, full, determined and inspired?" This is my new metric for stress/life comparison within myself.
I am not there right now and that is okay. Stress is normal, stress is seldom unavoidable as life is a stressor in itself! But there are methods to help manage the symptoms and reduce the burden of stress that I could be utilizing even more. Admittedly, I try to remain aware of this and not lose sight. Although Ill be the first to admit that its often easier to give advice than to take it. Meaning, I have to work on this concept within myself more.
I need to listen to myself.
The other day I went on lovely hike around Buntzen with a dear friend of mine and she unintentionally reminded me of this. She shared with me her struggles with her anxiety. This beautiful human had an all consuming panic attack on her way to work a few weekends ago. Once she got to work she sat in her car to regroup before heading in for her shift.
What she then did to take control of her emotions and feeling was use a mediation technique that I taught her in one of our private yoga sessions. She harnessed this technique and said within two minutes she felt a lot more cognitive clarity and calm. She then felt strong enough and in control to do the things she needed to go. This literally made me light up to know that a method I had taught her actually got her through a very difficult moment.
After she had finished her shift she decided to go for a walk to further improve her mental state. On this walk she chose to incorporate “grounding.” Although it was cold she took her shoes off and went on a walk where she could feel the cold earth below her feet.
I had spoken to her about some interesting research that is being done on grounding and its effects on wellness a few weeks prior.
For those that may not follow or read my #wellnesswednesday posts on Instagram --the premise was that the earth has some unpaired electrons and when you have direct contact with the earth these electrons transfer to the person.
What does this do for you health? Well it provides an antioxidant effect, helping to stabilize the free radicals "the bad guys" within us, improving our health, our ability to heal. The benefits of doing this include improved sleep, faster wound healing, reduced levels of stress, inflammation and pain. Walking barefoot activates the parasympathetic (the calming, rest and digest portion of the autonomic nervous system), recharging your body like a battery.
So in one day, this friend had anchored down and utilized two strategies she had learned from me. I was floored, honoured and so happy that these strategies had worked for her.
That leads me again to saying that I can talk the talk, and walk the walk, but I have to, walk my walk, a little better so to speak. Taking more care to detach, breathe and separate other’s stressors from my own. As I said, I thought I was doing much better with managing my stress and in truth, I am. However, there is room for improvement.
This past month I have implemented a 9:00 pm to 9:00 am phone ban on myself to distance myself. This has helped quite a bit. I am implementing more compassion for myself, especially on the days that I do not complete my “to-do” list. I am reminding myself that it is okay to be human.
Here I am on this first #moodymonday of December; reminding both you and me that it is okay to be human.
It is "normal" to be stressed but learning how to manage that stress is essential to promoting better health. Especially as the holidays approach, this beautiful time of year causes a diminishing effect on your bank account and increases proximity to people who may add or diminish your stress.
Remember to adjust your metric to determine your level of stress, see the big picture. So rather than comparing your stress to the times in your life where you felt the most stressed perhaps adjust your metric and compare it to the times you feel most relaxed. This may allow you to modify, tackle and be in control your mind --- leading to you being able to “turn off!”