Over the weekend, I was in school (organized school, not the random reading that I do all the time) and our awesome instructor, Rachel Stanley made a point about stress. Oh yes, we all know stress, and most of us live in it. Rachel mentioned that although all of our systems are wired with a fight or flight response, before the days of the office chair, and achievement, and becoming everything that someone else thinks we should be, this system was activated more rarely than it is now. The fight or flight response was only made to kick in with your sympathetic nervous system, a shot of adrenaline even, sort of a response to, “f*** there’s a BEAR, RUN!!!!” that sort of thing. Other times, we should be living in our parasympathetic nervous system, which aids digestion, relaxation and all that jazz.
Now I don’t know about you, but five years ago, I lived in my sympathetic nervous system. In fact, even now, at least 40% of my life is lived here. Why? Where’s the bear? The one that’s standing over the back of your office chair poised to take a bite when your deadline is in a week. When your deadline is further away, it moves away standing at the corner of the office. Sometimes it just growls a bit to remind you that you have five hundred billion things to do, and sometimes you’re running around because it’s right on your heels. It’s the bear that makes your heart beat like a drum and makes you rush through lunch, or even keep running through your lunch break. It’s the one that’s making you breathe through your mouth, activating your sympathetic nervous systems. Sometimes it looks a bit like your boss, or the Finance Department, or any other department that wants something done yesterday. Yeah, that one.
So, what are you going to do about it? First and foremost, realise that it is there. It could be a T-Rex in your case, but it’s there. Second of all, realise that it is imaginary. It’s not going to eat you. It might fire your @$$, but you’re not anybody’s dinner. Third, and most importantly, realise what it’s doing to you. Take note when your heart is pumping and your body feels like it’ tightening and clenching, ready to either run or pounce. Dude, there is no enemy! What are you running from? Or what are you pouncing at? First and foremost, if you’re in a building like mine, there’s only so far you can run. Secondly, if you’re getting ready to pounce, hold it in. What is the point of pouncing? It’s really not going to get anything done. At most, it’s going to get someone to run, then you’ll BE the bear. The world really doesn’t need any more aggression, and people really have their own bears to deal with without your contribution.
It’s your body, you can stop, consider and surprise surprise, you can actually manage your breathing. If you think you can’t breathe slowly, it’s only because you’ve gotten into the habit of breathing quickly. And train yourself to breathe through your nose, while you’re at it. Believe me, you can. Try pranayama or any sort of breathing exercise. Give the bear a hug and let it go to sleep. Your nervous system will thank you, and when you’re moving in your parasympathetic nervous system, and you can digest your dinner and sleep properly, your body will be much more ready to either flee or fly when there really is a bear growling at you.
P:S: Since blogging is not my full time job, obviously, I’m ignoring the bear at my desk, but believe me it’s work in a progress and more work than progress sometimes 😉