Stressy Stress Case

Image “In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” Mr. Rogers

I knew I was stressed when I was in a restorative yoga class and it was not restorative. In fact, it felt torturous.

Resting and relaxing is something I usually pride myself in being very good at! And when I teach kids yoga I try to instill in my students an understanding of the importance of recharging our batteries.

However, during this class, the more I tried to relax, the tighter my muscles felt. My brain had quit processing information, and my breath felt shallow and unattainable. I wanted to crawl out of my skin as the heat rose to my face and tried to escape out of the crown of my head.

Instead of bolting and removing the angry hands strangling my throat, I stayed and tried to regain my focus. But it was pointless. Sometimes sticking it out, bucking up, or brushing it off is not the best option. I knew this, but I decided to ignore these alarming signals and stayed put.

When I got home I cried for hours. I was exhausted and emotionally drained but felt better after the rushing, cascading waterfall of release. I wasn’t sure what was going on and was perplexed because…

Nothing had happened.

What the heck had brought this on?

I needed to de-stress.

I have heard others say it and I too have said to myself, “Well I don’t feel stressed” or “I have nothing to complain about” like there is some stress barometer we all measure ourselves against.

Stress is sneaky like that. Sometimes it's a huge, very well understood trigger like a move or an illness. Other times stress is more insidious and found lurking in the rhythm of daily living. We may finally begin to acknowledge that stress could be a factor when we find ourselves more accident prone or constantly forgetting things.

Stress in itself is not the problem, but how we handle or not handle our stress is. Stress can even be good for you like the stress we put on our bodies to build stronger bones and muscles. And stressful situations indeed help us become more adaptive and resilient survivors. However, too much stress in our lives can turn us into sleep deprived unintelligent creatures from the underworld.

Thinking back to this particular experience, there were many moments preceding this breakdown, or breakthrough as I prefer to see it, when I knew I needed to slow down and stop moving for awhile. But it took an f-ing crazy ass moment in a yoga class for me to wake up.

Stress is natural, and when we stress about stress, it just makes it worse. So don't worry, it is part of life. Though there are questions we can ask ourselves in regards to how we recognize stress in our bodies and how we, in turn, cope with it.

When we begin to understand and familiarize ourselves with our bodies’ unique signals of distress, we can pause, lean back, and simplify as much as possible. It's always helpful to ask ourselves these questions then, before we find ourselves wearing spandex in a compromising position wondering what the heck happened.

Some questions to ponder...

How do you know when you are “stressed out?”

How does stress present itself in your body?

What are the worst stress offenders for you?

What practices help relieve stress for you?