Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stress Equation

How Stress affects the Body:

Unresolved, unexpressed painful emotions = physiological stress = immune system dysfunction, dgeneration of body systems and abnormal cell growth, + time = illness and disease

So there you have it, a simple equation, isn't it?

Where are you on the scale of one to ten on the Stress Barometer?

Have you resolved your unresolved painful emotions? or do you even know where they are living in your body?

Are you feeling overtired, overwhelmed and under motivated about life in general?

The best remedy I can think of is Rest.  Unplug, hunker down, and take a nap.

Second best (but not one I readily turn to): Exercise, fresh air, a brisk walk near water or trees

Third best (highly recommend): talking with a close friend or bosom pal

But my favourite Self-Awareness tool is my journal. I try and make time to write every day even if its only for 10 minutes. Free hand writing is best - just sit and let yourself express whatever you are feeling, following no set pattern, not lifting your hand off the page. First thing in the morning is a good time for accessing the subconscious, fresh from dreams.  (recommended by Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way)  .

Another method of understanding the sources of stress and/or emotional pain is through Visual Journalling. I've discovered that it allows a similar process of self-discovery but through drawing (crayons, pastels).  The idea is not to produce a work of art, but to access the wisdom of the right brain, let the body talk to us in its metaphors (circles, houses, colours, shapes, flowers, rainbows, dark pits).

Most of us think stress is normal, and we just live with it.  We don't question where it's coming from, or we assume it's just part of life: if I can't change it, I might as well accept it.

What if you looked at things differently?

Take some time to access and assess your body's wisdom today.  Explore the 'pain in your neck', or the 'cramp in your gut'.  What stresses you? What's keeping you from your joy?

Emotions are teachers, and we need to allow their safe expression.  Don't ignore your own needs, make them felt, seen and heard.  Dance with them. 

According to the authors of Visual Journaling, work with cancer patients has shown that, the act of expressing a stress-producing emotion through drawing/painting moves the emotion energetically outside the body where it can no longer activate the stress response.

Go for some crazy scribbling, in your notebook or sketch pad.  Ask the question, and receive the answer.

Do it now!

stress equation from: Visual Journalling, Going Deeper than Words, Barbara Ganim and Susan Fox

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rest and Sabbath

What is we gave ourselves one day a week to truly rest?

What if we unplugged our social networks, our computers, emails, blackberries, for just one day?

What if we listened instead to the birds, to the grass growing, to the clouds scudding across the spring sky at twilight?

What if we let the fox come out of hiding and leap down to our border’s edge to stare at us?

What if we noticed the fat skunk waddling out of the culvert after dinner on a walk down our street?

What if we gave the heart a rest, some ‘do nothing’ down time? Without TV or radio? With only the heart’s own rhythm for accompaniment?

What if we bathed in silence for one hour?

Would the world stop?

Would our anxiety be less?

What if in that day of rest, we sat and had a heart to heart talk with our son, daughter, spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, or with ourself?

What if?

Monday, March 08, 2010

Clear your mind

After ecstasy, the laundry!
Zen philosopher

 Don't you love coming home to your own bed after being away on vacation?

But don't you also hate the laundry?  there are several piles of laundry on my floor right now. My husband did a few loads yesterday, and even folded them in neat piles (guess he was desperate for some clean socks and underwear). I  managed to get two more loads done today, and my daughter is doing her own, (so I really can't complain).

But besides the piles of white, dark and pale on my wood floor, it's the mental clutter and confusion that got me down today.  I was so clear on my purpose a few weeks ago, then I left for vacation and relaxed my mind, with lots of reading by the pool, swimming in turqouise waters, drinking afternoon wine and singing and dancing whenever possible.

This morning, back to ordinary life and reality: off to the dentist with my daughter, so I postponed my own writing and reflecting (tried to write in the dentist's reception area but the local radio station playing top 20 music made it difficult). Of course, she snuck in a quick shopping stop since we were downtown. And a quick stop to buy sushi for lunch (and groceries).

Did I mention I then needed a nap? 3 hours of sleep two nights ago, between airports and flights had created a serious sleep deficit (not to mention watching the Oscars till midnight last night).  All that to say, during my nap, or somewhere in the end of it, I began to mentally berate myself for all the things I wasn't getting done, for my lack of energy and focus, for the confusion I felt after reading about mommy blogs with hundreds of thousands of followers (and comparing them to my meagre following), and then the flood of things I had not done or was unclear about doing just got worse.

Finally I jumped out of bed, since it wasn't feeling very restful, and got back on the computer. Re-reading some of the emails I received while away, I ran across one from Jennifer Louden, a link to her Facebook page and an entry on Simple Action. It recommended taking one step at a time, not trying to do it all at once (ie write a paragraph not a whole chapter), and also recommended being kind to myself, ie not beating myself up mentally. How timely was that! I had just been writing in my journal about how I needed to feel ok right now, and stop feeling as if there is something wrong with me.

Then I ran into a message from Lao Tzu, through my sister Sue, which said, clear the mental clutter:  Cease all restless activity and your true nature will appear. Correct your mind.

That would describe my nap, lots of useless, restless mental activity, making lists of all the things I need to do - since I  have a chorus concert and competition coming up and my quartet is singing two new songs also, there is a lot I felt I should be doing today. 

My advice to myself is simple: let go of mental anguish, clear up mental clutter. Sit in the quiet of your room and listen to soothing music. Make a mini-retreat and write in your journal. Help yourself out of confusion by staying in the present moment. I am not this flotsom and jetsom rushing downstream in the muddy waters. I am clear water. Relief and stillness floods my being just to be reminded of that.