Stress is a word that has been on my mind a lot recently. As regular readers will have seen from recent posts, life is
pretty incredibly stressful at the moment.
Stress really is a menace. It is the devil. As someone who knows the health implications of stress all too well, I have spent a lot of time recently trying to de-stress. Trying to calm myself. Trying very hard not to stress.
And you know what I’ve realized? The more you fight stress, the worse it gets. The more you struggle against stress, the more stressed you become. The more you engage and identify with the fact you are stressed, the deeper down into the black hole of stress you go. The more you engage with it ‘I’m so stressed, oh I’m so stressed, I can’t do this….’ the more stressed your thoughts become. And the more stressed your mind is, the more stressed your body becomes. And that is never good.
That is not to say that you should sit back and let stress pummel you by doing nothing. No. That’s not what I think is best. But the way you interact with your stress is important.
The anology of quicksand is quite useful. The urban legend goes that if you find yourself caught in quicksand (heaven forbid, thankfully not a lot of it in London, the physical sort at any rate, lots of the stress sort) the very worst thing you can do is to fight it. The more you scrabble and struggle to get out, the more you put weight down on your foot in order to push yourself out, the deeper into the sand your foot goes. The more you struggle, the deeper you go and the more you struggle. It goes against all our natural instincts but the only way to survive quicksand is to lay down and spread your weight out across your full surface area. You have to just stop and be with the quicksand (and wait/pray for someone to come help you get out of course).
This can be applied to dealing with stress. The more you struggle against being stressed the deeper you fall, i.e. the more stressed you become. Then you fight it a bit more, and yep, you fall even deeper down into the stress. Never ending cycle of stress Hell. But if you can summon the strength (and boy is it hard) to just let the stress be and just accept the stressful thoughts and feelings, you will find that you survive. You will get through it and come out the other side.
I’ve been trying to keep this in mind. Trying to let the stress just be. As the Headspace meditation taught me, the calm of a blue sky is ever present, it’s just a matter of letting it come to the surface. By not struggling with the stress, that blue sky can appear much more easily.
I have also been thinking a lot about choice. I am not the stress and the stress is not me. It is not an uncontrollable part of me. It does not define me. Stepping back and seeing the stress as separate to me is really helpful. It helps me see that I have a choice about how I think/feel/react to the stress. I don’t have to let it take over. I can choose to step back and breath and let the blue sky bubble up.
Choice plays a central role in the Lightning Process. On recognizing a negative thought or physical symptom, you stop and choose what you want to do instead of just blithely following the negativity or damaging pattern. In prolonged periods of heightened acute stress, especially in bodies that have a history of ME/CFS, the nervous system can all too quickly become permanently switched on. We are wired very primatively and our bodies can not differentiate between actual danger (a hungry tiger ready to pounce on you) and uncomfortable difficult situations (such as idiot buyers holding up your house move). So even though there is no tiger about to eat me, my nervous system thinks there is and goes into overdrive in order to protect me.
The STOP of the Lightning Process is quite strong and can be too abrasive at times when your nervous system is in serious freak out mode (as mine has been over the last few weeks). At these times, you need to really sooth your nervous system. And a strong powerful STOP is unhelpful as it will just ramp up the stress in your system that bit more.
Instead I have been choosing to pause…. To breath….. and ground myself. To coach myself over and over that I am okay….. I am safe….. I am okay…. I am completely safe….. I have been choosing to float through the stress. To just let time pass….. To just float…. Float like a soft white feather on the breeze…… Float like a rubber duck bobbing in a bath of warm water…….. Float like a beautiful bird gliding through blue sky….. .Float on my back in calm turquoise waters…. Just float…. Just let it be…..
Words of the week:
I feel calmer already.
Hope you do too.