Living Brave Reflection 8: Stockpiling Stress

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Sometimes your greatest strength has its shadow side. I have always been a very resilient person who is able to keep a clear head in intense and stressful situations. I have high expectations of myself in the way in which I interact with others and try very hard not to offload any emotional or situational stress I feel on them in inappropriate ways. I am very good at being a non-anxious presence and have been able to remain in a more rational space when walking through some of those anxiety filled environments. Yet, you can’t walk through an anxiety filled environment without inhaling the fumes and having the fear and the worry enter into your lungs and pass into the bloodstream. You can’t bear other people’s burdens without a way of unburdening yourself and dealing with your own stress and anxiety. You don’t engage anger or fear without the endorphins which prepare your body to fight or flee flooding through your system leaving their residue remaining in fiber of your being. Yes, there is the healing power of removing oneself from the stress and letting the body work the toxins out of its system. There is the incredible healing power of exercise, sleep, good diet and conversations with trusted friends, of being in places where you are accepted and nurtured. But if you are like me, the longer you remain in the environment the more your stockpile stress and the less attractive the very things that would bring healing appear. I am good at pushing myself to the point where my body finally begins to react to the stockpiled stress and emotions and then begins to plead its case in various ways to force me to slow down or to make changes.

Perhaps I am more aware of this after 2010 when my body reacted to years of dealing with chronic stress by triggering a number of reactions both physically and emotionally. There were a number of standard physical signs-carrying tension in my neck for example, but also others which I didn’t realize until later. During 2008-2010 I suffered a number of very painful cramps in my legs that prevented me from running for significant periods of time (one of my primary stress relief outlets) which partially were due to not replacing shoes often enough but I believe were also aided by the amount of stress I was bearing. Emotionally I began to suffer from panic attacks, had trouble sleeping and drifted into depression.

I have attempted to become better in listening to my body. Granted, I’m no longer in my twenties and my body doesn’t respond to physical and emotional demands in quite the same way but I am still a pretty resilient person. Yet, with that resilience can hide the weakness. The belief that I can continue to push past my limits or endure things that may be unhealthy or violate boundaries that I need to recharge and rejuvenate. I’ve learned that often my body is the canary in the coalmine, the indicator that once again I have been stockpiling stress. So perhaps it is time for a warehouse sale, to open the doors and clear out all the crates.

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