Updated: Jan 19
..and some more about the key aspect of self-awareness for stress reduction and more joyful living.
It was not until the end of the day when I realized I had mustard on my ear. Those who know me are laughing even harder at my expense, as am I. The ear was hidden behind my very long hair. Who would know? In the era of COVID few are going to give me a hug and smell "eau de mustard" applied gently(?) on the left lobe. Who knows how it happened? I am like a tornado in the kitchen.
Here is the analogy, however, that you are hoping for. I was not aware of the condiment because I did not know and could not see it, and therefore could not remove and remediate the auditory organ/condiment misplacement situation. Likewise, with stress in the body and mind, typically we do not feel and know when our first signs of stress inside begin. They may show outside. We often show our stress in facial expressions, behavior toward others, certainly wellness over time, etc. But no one else is in a position to track our behavior and responses to ongoing stress like we are. When did it begin? What was the trigger? How did the mustard arrive and why? We are always there with ourselves but are we aware? Truly, we are seldom present in the moment and seldom aware of HOW WE FEEL INSIDE and why. As with the mustard, how is one to help the situation when one is not truly aware? With stress levels, we may just feel anxious and unhappy and want to feel better again.
An important question is if we feel stressed and not at ease because we are facing an IMMEDIATE "fight or flight?" In other words, are we in a situation to fight for our lives or others? Our stress response that triggers the release of cortisol in the body and other sympathetic nervous system (SNS) reactions is meant to be temporary. To keep us alive when "facing the tiger." Cortisol gets us up in the morning. Cortisol helps when we need that alert and protective life response. In our modern culture, however, the SNS is triggered with phone calls, news stories, text messages, work activity, a thought, raising children, simple conversations, to do lists, et al. The constant wear and tear on the body leads to dis-ease and disease. Recognizing how we feel in the stressed body, knowing when it begins and how our physiology reacts is a first step in the journey to cutting it off before it begins, bringing it down as needed or recovering after.
We are most able to help ourselves when awareness comes first. We have a global stress epidemic. Many
of us feel anxiety and stress on a daily basis, unable to enjoy life to the fullest and be present in each moment. There are literally thousands of books, podcasts, magazines and apps set to help with stress and anxiety in one way or another. But here is the kicker. Until we recognize stress in our body, when it started, and how it manifests, it is very hard to relieve and change the game, change how we feel every day. That mustard was hidden and tucked away in a place I seldom look, my ear! Stress gets tucked away and we become so used to how it feels to be under a constant barrage of anxiety and exhaustion that it becomes the norm. (I promise my children that ear mustard will not be the norm.)
On the far way planet where aliens daily place condiments near their ears as a fashion statement this would be a baseline state, harmless. Here on earth, what science now knows is that we were not meant to live with constant mustard behind the ear, constant stress. In other words, OUR NORMAL BASELINE STATE SHOULD BE ONE OF MUCH MORE EASE, PRESENCE, AND PEACE, regardless of what may be going on around us.
There is a Chinese Proverb that says, "Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are." Turning, in this case, the genuinely proverbial spotlight on that tension, seeing it, knowing it, recognizing it is a wonderful first step.
If I had not noted the offending ear intruder, who knows, I might have added ketchup two days later, some crumbs a day after that and voila, a sandwich would have been born. Likewise, stress builds, lowers the threshold for when those SNS chemicals are released and the cycle of stress repeats. Eliciting the Relaxation Response (RR) is something we CAN control when we need to do it, but only when we figure out how it feels to be in and out of stress. (RR is the direct opposite of stress in the body which fires up the soothing the Parasympathetic Nervous System). AND IT IS THIS SAME LEARNED AWARNESS THAT WE CAN THEN USE TO LEARN RELAXATION AND MINDFULNESS TECHNIQUES.
Interjecting practices that pre-empt errant stress response and literally change the tenor of a day, adding more peace in life, relies on first recognizing the internal mustard. As Aimee says in one of our early PART sessions, "Which YOU do you want to bring forward into life and to those you love? The stressed body or the relaxed body?" The education of awareness to stress is the groundwork. The key! For this reason, our PART program starts with education and awareness. And likewise, it is because of the lack of awareness education that many quick fix techniques do not work.
Did you ever hold a baby and only realize that you had dried spilled milk on your shoulder at the day's end, having already gone to the grocery store, the bank, and the park? Yeah, me too. The awareness we teach in PART is akin to having a mirror on the body to avoid the mustard and the spilled milk issue. Who has a mirror available all day to check for errant food particles? We do, however, have our body and mind at all times. We can learn when stress is errant and then when our learned techniques are working. With education backed awareness of all the ways stress affects us and how to intervene, the true and valuable work of CHOOSING and reclaiming your own peace and joy in life can begin.
Our next Zoom PART (Positivity and Relaxation Training) Programs start in Mid-March. The winter is a great time to rest and prepare for whatever changes you want to see in Spring!
Contact email@example.com to discuss the course and how it might fit for your individually or for your family or group.