Today, I had the most profound epiphany. As I was sitting in my truck, driving home from my chiropractic appointment I tried to squeeze into my lunch break (that I constantly feel guilty about), I realized that the stress that I was experiencing was by my own design.
As I sat, mindlessly driving (yep, I was in motion with all this thinking going on in my head), mentally compiling my already overwhelmed weekly schedule with additional tasks that must be done this week, I felt my entire body tighten. I glanced up in my rearview mirror and noticed that my brow was furrowed and looked down quickly before eyeing the road to catch a glimpse of my knuckles visibly lightening from my clinching the steering wheel in a death grip.
I was attempting to process how I was going to meet with my Residents (for my coaching job), observe potential recruits coming into our program next, engage in school visitations with the consultant from Newark who will meet with my two sitting principals, plan and design the artifacts for a training tomorrow, fit in two more chiropractic visits, go to traffic court for my accident last year on Friday, visit with my new mentee that I’m coaching as she transitions into college, visit two gyms to scope out the pools for my therapy and join a new yoga class to support my back therapy as well. It was too much for my mind to handle and I started to panic. I felt like crying and giving up all in that moment. The joy of my job, and the prospective joy I was feeling around my new volunteering experiences, swimming and a new yoga practice, were being overshadowed with dread.
It was in that moment, I decided I am not going to stress. Each week, I enter Sundays with a sense of dread… of not being enough… of not doing enough… of feeling overwhelmed… and feeling like a fraud… and I’m unhappy. When that dread is absent, I generally love my life and life choices but when I’m overwhelmed, I question everything and it makes me sad, depressed and anxious. I don’t want to feel this way anymore and since these feelings of stress are tied to emotions and emotions can be managed, I am managing mine.
While stress is our ancient way of protecting ourselves from danger (i.e. fight, freeze, flee), in the current context of our busy worlds, chronic stress is dangerous and detrimental to our health. Since I am trying to heal an extensive back and spine trauma from my car accident, I cannot afford to be in a state of chronic stress. I cannot immediately change jobs but I can change how I approach my job. I may not be able to let go of all my current activities but I can prioritize activities that make me happy and help heal me mentally and physically. I can choose a better life for myself – one that is stress-free!
I called my friend to share this great news as soon as I got home. She was very excited (and probably thinking, “Chile, I coulda been told you this” because she had previously been struggling with the same thing) and told me she would share something with me. When I opened up my computer, it was today’s post on Leo Babuta’s site ZenHabits. The post title… Being Mindful of Stress.
The universe confirmed what I had been thinking and this was my glaring neon sign. I feel comforted in knowing that I can choose to live a happy, healthy life; not just manage the day’s stress, only to sleep and pick up the load the next day. It’s a tremendous relief and I’m super excited for the implications in my future!!!
How do you manage stress in your life? What signs do you look for to tell you that you are stressed?
I’d love to hear about your experiences!