Monday, March 14, 2016

taking a breath of life

Friday Reflections' prompt gave me something to think about this weekend. The prompt that caught my attention was this one:

Give us some advice on how to de-stress at the end of a bad day or week?

At first I wondered how I would give anyone advice on this prompt.  This past year has been so stressful for me that there were days I didn't know if I could find the energy to do ordinary tasks, much less deal with work and what was going on with the rest of my life.

But as it all spiraled out of control, I knew that if I was going to survive, I needed to deal with the stress. One day I stopped, took a deep breath and remembered how I had dealt with high stress times in the past. And so the advice I give comes from the lesson I learned then. It was actually a self taught lesson, a compilation of things I have learned over the years, and the way I survive times in my life when I feel as though I might explode from overload.

I see my life as a plate. Literally. I close my eyes and see what is going on in the here and now as a plate full of stuff. I don't see food, I see the words representing what is stressing me. For instance, if I have a deadline at work, I see a piece of paper with the name of the project on it. If I have several projects going, each one is on that plate. If I have someone in the family with something serious going on, I see them too. (The year my daughter Jen had multiple throat cancer surgeries, she was sitting on the plate, in a hospital gown.) This past year, my husband's pacemaker was on that plate, my cancer was on the plate, the dog bite I got on January 1, 2016 was there, and so was my mum's illness and death. Full plate huh? You bet it was.

In the past, when my plate got too full, I started taking things off the plate to relieve the stress. I quit a job that almost caused me to burn out as a nurse, and several other things too. The problem with this past year is that there was nothing I could remove from the plate. Absolutely nothing. I couldn't run from breast cancer, or the huge bite on my face that got infected. I couldn't run the day Steve nearly died because his pacemaker failed. And I couldn't stop my mum from dying. My plate was as full as it could get, with no room left for anything else. 

When that happens in my life, and it has happened in the past, then I use mental imagery to escape.  I fix a cup of tea, picture a favorite place I have been, remember something good that has happened in my life, and I go there for a little while. I have mastered the ability to be in a place physically, but be thousands of miles away in my mind. I actually discovered this when I was a child, and would live inside the books I read. It takes practice, but I can actually feel my muscles begin to relax, and my breathing softens and deepens. Relaxation. Life. De-stressing in the moment. 

Yoga is another way to accomplish this same thing for me. It is one of the best practices for releasing stress. I recommend it, because yoga has made such a tremendous impact on my life.

Taking care of yourself includes managing the stress in your life. Too often we spend all our days filling them with things to do, tasks for ourselves and others that takes up all our time and energy. And like a fuel tank on a car, eventually that tank goes empty. You have to make the time to refuel so that you can manage that busy life you live. A balanced life is a happy one. For me it is anyway.

And even with all that has happened since last April, I have found my happy spot again. That doesn't mean every day is easy and not stressful. It just means I have regained my coping skills again. 

Found my happy spot. I encourage you to find yours.

...stop, take a breath of life... ~cath

i am @jonesbabie on twitter

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