Saturday, April 14, 2012

Stress management. A bloody mess, a calm conclusion.

I had a bit of an issue the other day when a convergence of shit hit my figurative fan, all at the same time.

I won't go into detail, but too many obstacles slid next to too many roadblocks I'd created that day; too much distraction led to too much vacancy with the present moment, and in the blink of an eye, in my self-absorbed distraction, I cut my finger.

I'll do almost anything to get out of actually looking at an unintended self-injury. But when I have to based on circumstance, an odd, dissociative, take-charge gene kicks in.

It didn't look like much of a cut at first glance. As far as I could tell without looking too long, it was relatively small, but very deep, and extremely painful. And it wouldn't stop bleeding.

I wrapped up my finger in a clean dish towel, kept working on my spinning tasks, and occasionally blurted out a nasty invective that punctuated just how much my finger continued to hurt like fire. I was worried that I actually might need a stitch or two. I was worried about infection. The thing I cut it on was kind of an unknown when it came to its origin.

When my finger was still bleeding an hour later, I was getting stressed.

I used the only weapon left in my arsenal.

I relaxed.

I sat in my favorite chair, closed my eyes, stopped thinking about my damned finger, and essentially slowed down.

My finger stopped bleeding, stopped hurting, in about five minutes.

The entire day, the moments that led up to that gushing hour, that calming conclusion, got me thinking.

How much time do I spend, how much effort do I put into spinning my wheels when that action doesn't take me anywhere? How much value is there in worry, stress, fear, anxiety, colorful epithets - all the things that eventually led me to my favorite chair?

I did more reading, more research on the worry/stress/fear connection for this entry than I've done for a long time. There's so much information, so many resources, it boggles the noggin. The connections are so clear, the information so profuse, that I couldn't narrow down data to encapsulate it in one tidy message. Not to do it justice in this one small bloggy space.

Long and short, we Americans worry too much, usually about stuff that is probably never going to happen. We get stressed about things so vast that we can't do anything about it but worry and get angry (the ugly triad of worry, fear and stress has a favorite cousin: anger). It manifests in personal, social and physical forms. And usually the objects of our worry and fear, which causes stress, might never happen, or hasn't happened yet.

This was not the case with my bleeding finger. That was real. That happened.

Then I got to thinking about the really terrible stuff that's actually happened in my life that was highly stressful, and even though I didn't think I could, I lived through it. In fact, even though in those cases my biggest fears were realized, I came out of the messy melange of terrible just that much stronger.

And I thought about all the things I've spent so much time worrying about that turned out really great in the end.

So there's an upside.

And it seems that the most valuable lesson that could be learned from those very real, awful experiences might be what I learned the other day.

I just stopped.

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