If there’s one thing sure to make me not feel relaxed is someone telling me to “Relax”.
Especially if the delivery is a sneering and condescending “Jeez….relax!”
Relaxing. Even when we think we are… Are we?
For many of us it’s a lot harder to do than we would like to think…. especially if we really don’t know ourselves well enough to understand what lies at the core of our feeling stressed or tightly wound.
Some of us can’t even recognise that we are, so natural has stress become in our life. While Adrenal Fatigue is not a recognised medical condition there is indeed something going on and its not because we are being chased down by lions.
Most of us love to mock the “Hippies” or the “Love and Light” brigade… I’ve been known to give the occasional eye roll, despite sharing many of the qualities of both. And I like to think they are indeed qualities.
In our privileged world where control, power and pragmatism to the point of cynicism is lauded, to relinquish these perceived ideals is to lay ourselves open to ridicule from many quarters.
To publicly step off the treadmill invites both respect and derision.
It’s been an interesting few years for me. I have been though a lot of change. Much of it caused me varying degrees of stress and anxiety. Was I being authentic or was I being self indulgent? Who was I now? Could I be more than I was before? What would my future hold when choice was truly abundant. Shedding ones skin is never an easy process I guess.
It took me a long time to recognise that my immediate family is a pretty easily stressed bunch. Longer to include myself in that summation.
It’s easy to not see what’s right in front of us when everyone else is the much the same.
I guess I was the lucky one in a way because truthfully, I lived in a bit of a bubble most the time. Self absorbed to the point of (cough cough) having my “head up my arse”.
Horses, Motorbikes, Bodybuilding, Career, Obsessive/Compulsive Mortgage Reduction Syndrome (I’m not sure if you will find that in the medical journals tho)
I can’t say being single minded (it was always all about ME!) didn’t have it’s advantages, and it’s probably served me well in most regards but I didn’t have the self awareness to assess or understand the disadvantages until much later.
What can serve us can also hold us back. By taking away balance, a broader perspective and being truly open to other opportunities we sell ourselves short and risk stagnation.
How do we recognise those habits or pursuits which are growing us from those which may be detrimental? It’s not always obvious.
What is a bad habit anyway?
The way I see it and I’m clearly no Psychologist, it’s a thread that runs though our lives that is detrimental to reaching our full potential, be it our emotional and/or physiological development and quite often we hurt the ones we love as a result, consciously or unconsciously.
Bad habits. We all have plenty. That’s a given. Of course it’s rather subjective.
One person may even regard frequent deep introspection as a bad habit, derisively calling it “Navel Gazing”, where as many would see this as a necessary tool in acquiring Self Knowledge.
I guess the circle is drawn around what defines frequent and how objective we can be about ourselves.
Many say this is where Meditation comes in.
Meditation. Nope, in the true sense of the word, I don’t do it. Any time I’ve tried, I fail….or I fall asleep. Literally.
Recently I have come to understand that failing at meditation is 100% part of the process. Like most things worth doing. But I still haven’t given it much of a go.
But I digress.
Let’s bring it back to relaxing. How do we find the ability to throw that switch or even recognise the need to throw it?
For me it was the recognition that was the hard part. I denied that I had inherited a fairly significant stress gene. It’s only been the last couple of years that I have understood and accepted it. I was good at hiding it for many years, from myself and to all but maybe those closest to me.
There’s an other family issue I’ve the propensity for. I don’t personally but most of my family have varying degrees of Bowel disease…or at least “issues”.
I’ve been conscious of that reality for a number of years now and it was the reason I went vegetarian for a few years after my father died of bowel related disease in 1998.
There’s nothing like washing your dads soiled PJ’s and understanding how humiliating that is for such a proud man, to bring that reality home to you.
I didn’t know much about the impact of life and our choices on bowel health. I thought it all came down to luck and genetics. There was no internet in my life back then and I didn’t really read anything other than novels, losing myself in a good piece of fiction was one of my favourite ways of “relaxing”, but I had read one thing on the subject and it was that eating meat and being stressed has a negative impact on it.
A good start and I could have delved in to it so much deeper if I’d had access to information that we enjoy today. But I didn’t and so I also wasn’t Vegetarian anymore 6 years later. A new boyfriend’s influence saw that one slowly change. The things we do for love hey…..
All too often we just ‘accept’ feelings of stress. I did.
I have had many incidents in my life where it was understandable, stress that is, but many more that could have been completely avoided. It was life experience and being more accepting and open about what I perceived as “weakness” that finally made me examine what it is to be a person who is prone to stress.
I also decided that we didn’t have to blindly accept it as part of being “human” and that there were steps I could and should take to address it.
It was during this time I went Vegan. Empathy and clarity threw that switch.
It’s interesting and valuable this gift of hindsight, or it can be. In hindsight I see all the flags waving madly. I also see all the unconscious ways I distracted myself from them and the stress itself.
And a lot of our chosen coping techniques often result in little more than shifting the problem by further compounding it or creating a different kind of stress.
This is where developing Self Awareness comes in. And sometimes the door to Self Awareness opens only when someone close prods us toward it with a very big stick. We should be so lucky to have a person whose motivation to do so is their genuine love and concern for us, as little as we probably appreciate it at the time. The rest of us need to come to it in our own way.
For me, recognising I actually was prone to a negative kind of stress and not wanting to spend too much time affected by it, was the turning point. Recognising I didn’t have my shit together as much as I thought I did and certainly as much as others thought I did.
I have thankfully begun to be the person who has found a new state of grace by no longer being so attached to outcomes, who holds on loosely, who explores new internal and external horizons and is open to developments as they arise….
I still see some around me caught up in a “more is more” mentality and it’s never enough. Trapped in a circle of expectation and desire for the material and at worst, in the grips of addiction, be it food or substances.
There’s a fine line between passion and addiction and the key, I think, is that passion serves us in beautiful. empowering and positive ways….it lifts us in a meaningful and broader sense. No matter how often those passions may shift and change.
Addiction takes US out of the equation of living fully and consciously. It becomes what happens to us. As someone who knows little of it personally, it seems to me that the addict is no longer themselves, and that the addiction has become who they are.
Addiction serves nothing to anyone but to those who externally feed it….and not even them, when you scratch the surface.
To free ourselves entirely of Stress is most likely impossible and arguably, detrimental, but there lies within all of us the ability to deal with it or minimise it. It starts with recognising it exists within us and wanting to address both the cause and effect. Then comes the necessary introspection and work.
Non judgemental introspection….and seeking external help from professional or trusted, wise counsel. We can’t see ourselves fully when we hold the mirror too close.
We can reinvent ourselves at any given moment. What happened a minute ago doesn’t have to define us, in regards to who we can choose to become the next. What matters is now. Who we are. What we choose and the direction we are going to move forward in.
Give yourself the space and the time to clear the clutter and negative self talk…. find out where it is you are able to do that. Even if for five minutes a day.
Write it down. Write down what you discover. Even if you don’t believe it’s entirely accurate. Write down what pushed your buttons. Why you think it affected you that way and then observe, with a level of detachment and distance, what it was that brought you back to stasis.
Go back later….maybe much later, and read it all with that benefit of hindsight.
I’m grateful for the life events that caused me the most stress now. Especially now I can understand them and can or have used them to bring me to a new chapter of my life.
I’ve got a lot of tools in the “relax” tool box…like music, tidying things up, minimising clutter, getting rid of “stuff’, sitting outside observing the natural rhythm of the natural world with my own sweet fur family around me, exercising, spending a little easy time with like minded friends, making plans and opportunity in the form of new ventures and adventures, tapping into creativity through writing, photography, growing vegetables, cooking.
And one of the most surprising joys for me was opening up this space I call home for others to come and stay. Strangers. Travellers. Seekers.
And then caring for them. To see people relax and embrace the experience that is this place, to see the smiles, relaxed faces and hear their laughter….
The easy conversation over meals, the sharing of stories…..the connection and simplicity of this most basic of daily activities.
Its a privilege to have fallen into this role. Where all the elements of my life and what I hold most dear… Veganism, Health, Whole Foods, Nature, Kindness, Activity, Travel, Communication, Support, Service are drawn in to one.
To find a real sense of peace in the gentle advocacy of these things I believe in and offering that to others by meeting them where they are at. What a delightful surprise, this ability to live in alignment with ones values.
We can all reduce how much we let the negative aspects of life impact us.
It starts with a decision to accept that we cannot control every thing but we can control our response. We can try to find a positive within a negative. Even when it seems impossible and absurd at the time.
To let go of the stuff that hurts us, even when that hurt is safe and familiar. To let go of that which is holding us back from doing what we feel is calling us. From finding out who we really are.
We value authenticity highly because we so seldom find it.
No one holds “fake” up as an ideal.
Not everyone will be happy for you as you make the changes that are often necessary to find peace in your heart. Many people dislike and fear change and will disparage you for it.
But in the end, you hurt yourself and others more by pretending to be who you are not.
Don’t wait until it’s too late but don’t trample on the feelings of others to go there either…..But go. Go to where you need to go. Even if you’re not sure where that is yet.
They call it a journey for a reason…you don’t need to know the destination, in fact you can’t know. None of us do. Just start moving in the direction you feel you need to. Align yourself with your true values and then there’s no mistakes, no wrong turns.