The art of giving yourself a break: my first experience of stress

Photo 30-08-2018, 14 30 25 (1).jpg
In pursuit of knowledge, every day something is added. In the practice of the Tao, every day something is dropped. Less and less do you need to force things, until finally you arrive at non-action. When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.
— Lao Tzu

I have always prided myself on never getting stressed. I never really felt overwhelmed, I never felt short of time, I never made to-do lists. Maybe I was just a level-headed, put-together hero. Maybe I was in denial. Maybe I was painfully unaware because I didn’t give space for my feelings. Who knows? All I know is I got back from teacher training exactly one month ago today, and now the force of stress is strong in this one.

 

Often it frustrates me. I spent so long working on my mind, transforming my whole attitude, addressing my areas of weakness and setting goals. I was at a place where I felt unperturbed by all outer events, I felt strong and sure and confident in my ability to deal with all obstacles with grace and positivity. I felt untouchable, like I had built an impenetrable force shield of joy around myself which made me invincible. I began to manifest everything I had asked for and designed into my life, one after the other, on purpose instead of by accident. I felt ready for the next thing. I felt ready to learn my life purpose, to pursue it and flourish, whilst helping others. I asked, practically begged for it. I said “I’m ready!” and the universe said “Okay then” and orchestrated an infinity of people and events to fulfil this dream I had created for myself.

 My mindset manuals

My mindset manuals

So what the fructose am I moaning about, right!? (profanity credit: Susan Rubiano) I am literally creating my life on purpose, fulfilling desires on demand and living a life some people could only dream of. I should be on cloud nine, without a care in the world, screaming from the rooftops about how awesome my life is. And it really is. Which is why I get frustrated when I feel low, overwhelmed or despondent. I feel like I have no right to feel this way. And I get frustrated because I’m not used to it. I was always the one who had her shit together, who was strong and unshakable. I feel conflicted because I am obscenely grateful and mesmerised by how far I’ve come, but also feel pressure to do and be more. I feel like I need to put on a brave face because I am incredibly privileged, but also like I need to be myself, to acknowledge what I’m feeling and be honest about it. I feel like I need to go back to that calm, confident, self-assured human, but also like this part is essential to my growth.

 

In many ways, it was easier to see the positive side when things weren’t going to plan in my life. I was determined to turn things around with my mind, and I did. Now that everything is going my way, I almost don’t know what to do. It’s like when you suddenly get an unexpected large sum of money and you panic about what to do with it. We want what we want, but when we actually get it, it’s terrifying!

 

This is all very new to me and I’m still trying to figure out how to manage the terrain. Transitions are stressful, big life change is stressful, taking a risk is stressful, putting yourself out there is stressful! Seems like a paradox, right? How can you be stressed about yoga? The same way you can be stressed about a wedding. Or Christmas. Or any of the infinite number of things that are supposed to bring us joy. You can become stressed about anything when you lose sight of what’s important, why you’re doing it in the first place and what it means to you.

 

For me, yoga is my playtime, my strength training, my mood booster, my stress-diffuser, my meditation, my creative outlet, my passion and purpose. It is my way of being, and is woven through all aspects of my life. I want to share yoga with as many people as will let me. I want to use yoga to spread love, to raise consciousness, to heal and transform. I want to use yoga to learn more, about my body, my mind, my limits, my emotions, my uniqueness. I want to use it to learn about philosophy, wisdom, discipline, tenacity and growth. This cannot be rushed. It cannot be forced. I cannot put a deadline on it, because it is work that will never be finished. It is a living, yes, but it’s also my life. So how about I slow down enough to enjoy it, yeah?

I wrote myself a letter today:

 

Dear Crazy McStressface,

 

What are you scared of?

Momentum reducing?

You are not designed to always be producing

What are you scared of?

Taking a breath?

Newsflash, you numptee, it helps prevent death!

What are you scared of?

Having downtime?

Without gathering strength how will you make the climb?

What are you scared of?

Not doing enough?

You will never have time for all the stuff

What are you scared of?

Wasting the hours?

It’s about time you slowed down to smell the flowers

What are you scared of?

Not doing all you could?

Impossible, life’s happening exactly as it should

What are you scared of?

Output unsteady?

Just look at what you’ve created already

What are you scared of?

Not always pursuing?

You’re a human being not a human doing

What are you scared of?

Targets going unmet?

Look how you’ve smashed every goal that you set

What are you scared of?

Not reaching full potential?

You won’t as you’re infinite, so it’s inconsequential

What are you scared of?

Losing speed?

Who cares? You are always given all that you need

What are you scared of?

Coming in below par?

Just look at what you’ve accomplished so far

What are you scared of?

Internal strife?

If you’re living in fear, you’re wasting your life

Slow down if you want to avoid a disaster

Slow down and ultimately you will go faster

Slow down your breath, your body, your mind

Slow down, find balance, trust the process, be kind.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Your sanity

 One way I practice self-care

One way I practice self-care

Why is it as humans we find it so easy to focus on everything that we haven’t done yet, that we could be doing, that we should be doing? How about instead, we look at all that we have accomplished? I think we might surprise ourselves. I know I did.

 

Since getting back from Thailand I have:

-       Started teaching a weekly class in an office

-       Set up a weekly studio class

-       Had an idea for another studio class which I’m in the process of setting up

-       Thought of the idea for another class

-       Started planning a workshop

-       Found the balls to actually contact studios

-       Got set up on MoveGB

-       Set up a website, then set up a better one

-       Started work on a logo

-       Written a blog (now two)

-       Started writing poetry

-       Got a new job

-       Got a second new job

-       Created content for social media

-       Started working out more

-       Started being more open and honest

-       Allowed space for my feelings

-       Spent time working on setting new goals and redefining old ones

-       Managed to keep the house clean EVERY DAY for viewings(!) – I’m kind of a lazy shit normally

-       Booked a ticket for a reunion with some awesome people from training

-       Drove an unfamiliar 20-mile route, without a sat nav and WITHOUT getting lost, even with my terrible sense of direction

-       Found three things to be grateful for every day

-       Cuddled A LOT of dogs

 

When I look at what I have achieved in the last 31 days, I am slightly in awe. Not in a conceited way, I am just amazed at how much goes unnoticed, unappreciated, how much I really am doing when I think I’m not and how hard I am on myself. If I can do this much whilst constantly berating myself for not doing enough, just IMAGINE what I could achieve if I calmed the eff down and gave myself a break!

 

We are creators, we cannot help but create; it is inevitable. It’s like being scared we won’t breathe tomorrow, we can’t help BUT do it. It’s involuntary. We are always creating. Every thought, feeling, word, action creates. So if we are infinitely creating without even trying, why are we so fearful we won’t be producing? Maybe we should focus on cultivating some mindfulness and self-compassion instead.

 

The opening quote from Lao Tzu describes the Law of Least Effort. It explains that everything is created with ease and effortlessness when you trust in the intelligence of the universe. When you listen to your inner nudges, even if they’re telling you to slow down or stop altogether. When you stop forcing and trust that everything is happening exactly as it should, at the perfect time and in the perfect way.

 

This is the path of no resistance, where nothing is done, yet nothing remains un-done.