The dictionary has many definitions for this one little word: you can have a stress fracture (broken bone), you can stress, or emphasize, a point in a discussion, it can be a force applied to a body that can deform it or it can be a mentally or emotionally upsetting condition in response to some external
influences or perceived danger.
Hmmm. Which one did you immediately think of when you saw this blog subject? Me too.
And the mental or emotional response triggers a host of reactions in our physical body. Biologically it puts us into the "flight or fight" mode; releasing the "stress" hormones adrenaline and cortisol that triggers us to run faster and jump higher. A fabulous response when facing down a mountain lion or escaping a burning building. But over time, if these hormones remain surging through our system they become harmful to our health and begin to actually break down internal organs. We become moody, depressed, anxious with loss of memory and other bad stuff!
Lovely, aye? And who isn't "stressed" these days? I was diagnosed with hives just before Jims' tumor took over our life. I was told it's stress. I was told I could get rid of it by reducing my stress. Sounds so easy! But four years later I still have the hives even though I thought the stress causing them had been taken away from me.
Recently I was diagnosed with Rosacea, a skin condition that they don't really know what causes it or how to heal it. They do know there are "triggers" that flare it up; red wine, chocolate, spicy foods ... all of my favorite things! And they don't know how to cure it. I was prescribed a cream that costs a billion dollars (OK, I may be exaggerating a little bit, but honestly, it's so expensive it feels like a billion dollars to me!). Even though at this price it feels like it should last my entire life it won't. It does seem to help with this condition though. My older sister said to me, "Mary, it's your FACE!", as in, do whatever is necessary to deal with it. So I buy the cream and use it sparingly.
I can't help but wonder if one trigger for this condition may also be stress. But what the heck is this stress anyway? What is the imaginary danger that we are needing to flee from? Why is it so difficult to remove all these mountain lions from our lives? Don't we have all this technology to make our lives easier, to do things faster and to allow us more free time? And as one of the wealthiest countries in the world we must have lots of free time since we all make a lot of money and thus we don't have work 24/7 like many other people in poorer countries. Right? And free time will reduce our stress. Right?
Why is all this so wrong?
As an acupuncturist I have a lot of people who come to me with anxiety, depression and .... stress. For one hour out of their week I give them permission to lie down, to simply stop all the busy-ness and to let these little needles work some kind of magic for them to relax and rejuvenate their biological systems ... until they go back out into their world.
As I put this billion dollar cream on my face I sometimes remember the blog I wrote about Looking Up (March 2010). I remember sitting out on the deck in the warming sun with my sick husband, who was napping. We were wrapped up in blankets against the chill and leaning against the gentle giant of an oak that towered over our house in Falmouth. During those months of caring for Jim there were these occasional moments that I could just stop and just sit out in the sunshine. The blog talks about all the small things I noticed while sitting still. All the life around me that could easily go unseen in my usual fast paced life.
Why is it so difficult to just stop sometimes? To just sit outside for no reason at all. To look up and see that cardinal or nut hatch or swelling spring bud? To turn the computer, television, radio, cell phone off and just exist in our world in it's purest form?
Our response to stress is a biological reaction. This natural world that we've disassociated ourselves from is our biology, our essence, our nature. To turn towards it and become part of it is the very stuff we are truly made of.
This March, as the sap begins to flow through the Sugar Maples, as the song birds become more active in response to the higher sun, and the world around me begins to know that warmer days are coming even though I don't feel it in my bones yet, I vow to myself to just stop at times. To look up and see my world and take some time to be a part of this life that is all around me.
I vow to stop my response of fighting some unseen danger and to take flight from a world made crazy by being so out of touch with what is truly real.
Loving you all back,