It seems fairly acceptable in our society these days to accept stress as “normal”. Technology designed to make life easier has in fact made life busier with a constant flow of information, requests and demands on our time and things to attend to all run by numbers on a calendar, in a bank account or on a clock that our thoughts about them react to.
More and more automated voice options on phones that don’t get you where you need to be to actually speak to a human being does not add relief to our stress levels as they provide less and less customer service along with more and more frustration. We have less time to grow and cook good food and less time with loved ones because we are all so “busy”.
Whereas once upon a time you wrote a letter, wandered down to the post box and posted it, it was received and you then waited for a reply these days as soon as an email arrives there is an inclination to attend to it almost immediately in order to continue on with what you are doing or to attend to some “urgent” matter that has suddenly arisen. It seems too that being more and more productive is constantly pushed by bosses in the name of profit and greed. Combined with that the volume of information available these days on the internet can be and often is quite overwhelming.
Where once upon a time you only heard local or national news now you are bombarded with news about disasters, insanities and atrocities from all over the planet wherever you go which generally speaking you are helpless to do a damn thing about other than to either feel empathy for those involved, have a re-action to which is usually either anger or sadness and be ever so grateful for your own situation in a country such as Australia. Or you can always just turn it all off.
The push for more and more productivity, more and more profit driven greed is massive though and as the planet’s health is affected by it, so too is ours. If we have a day where we simply can just take in no more information, where all we want to do is just roll the rock over the cave entrance and hibernate, stay in our jim jams and sloth about simply because we just cannot be bothered with any of it or we feel like we just cannot do anything more without some shutdown time, our conditioning is, generally speaking to think we are lazy or are being self-indulgent. In recent days even our government here in Oz has decided it’s a damn good thing if people born after a certain year now continue working until they are 70 before they will be able to receive any government assistance by way of a pension.
When folk get snappy at others it is usually because they are rushing around frantically with a million things in their heads all screaming for attention, they are not present at all. They are in fact either living in the past in their heads or living in the future and so the reason usually given for a snappy or rude attitude and tone of voice is in many situations tied in with stress.
We, as humans, are not computers where buttons can just be pushed and information is rapidly processed, yet by many and perhaps even ourselves we have become conditioned to expect we can. However even the best computers need de-fragging and deletion of old files when they start to run slowly. Many people too are so busy talking about all their dramas and stresses or whinging and gossiping about other folk there is simply no space or time for self-reflection or introspection. As for self-nurturing well that is just something many don’t have “time” for.
A typical day for most of us (not exactly in this order but you will get the gist of it) is being rapidly brought out of sleep by a screaming “alarm”, so we are “alarmed” before we even get out of bed, a frantic rush out the door to get to where we need to be trying to make sure we have all we need, a day being bombarded with “stuff” by much and many, a frantic rush to get children where they need to be (if we have them), a frantic rush home to do whatever needs doing that night and then a run around situation on a weekend just to get ready for the following week. Folk work incredibly long hours to maintain jobs many really are not even happy doing, to either just survive or to pay off debt they have acquired to buy “stuff” they are usually so busy working to pay for they don’t get much time to enjoy the “stuff”, nor do they get much time to spend with those in their lives who they love and care about.
It all seems like total insanity to me and always has done even though I too have participated in it for several decades.
At some point in our evolution we have gone from a day that consisted of a natural rhythm of waking up at sunrise, washing and gathering our food for the day, making things we needed, not wanted (there is a massive difference) all of which nature provided us with the resources to do, spending time with our “tribe”, cooking, laughing, planting, caring for each other, telling stories, making music, harvesting crops and living a very simple but way more fulfilling life to my way of thinking than we all presently have and then going to sleep not too long after the sun went down. What we call “stress” has been part of humanity forever for it actually comes from the fight or flight response we all contain.
When “stressed” the adrenal glands create adrenalin which then makes our hearts pump faster and harder so that blood can be moved to our big muscles in order that we have enough oomph to either fight, literally for our very lives, or take flight rapidly to save our lives. We also breathe rather shallowly when stressed so not as much oxygen is available to pump our blood. The whole purpose of “stress” and the impact it has on our bodies is purely about survival and was designed to last for only a very short time to keep us safe. I became aware recently that it is seen to be a 15 minute maximum scenario.
So, what happens when we are “stressed” constantly – high blood pressure happens, sore throats happen if we are not speaking our truth, anxiety happens, nervous disorders happen, lack of sleep happens, headaches happen, muscles ache and so many other horrid impacts to our body, emotions and minds happens and whilst we all know stress isn’t healthy for us and we tout it is a killer – it is indeed very much a killer by nature of the human body when experienced on an ongoing basis. It is very often the case that unless or until it makes us really sick we just carry on Columbus with it as a constant companion.
I am speaking from hard learnt experience here and often it is the case that you really don’t realise just how stressed you were until you move into a space of not being stressed. For a time it is actually a really weird feeling to not be stressed, to not be racing around like a lunatic and to not be constantly achieving or producing. Many people when they start experiencing stress symptoms like digestive disorders and other apparent signs like I have mentioned above have the inbuilt conditioning to go see a doctor and get some pills so they can “carry on”. The pills they take have possible “side effects” which aren’t really things that happen on the side and are in fact effects and whilst yes for some pharmaceuticals are the answer for more and more of us they are fast not becoming the answer. The western medical system is a whole other topic and for some it works, for some it doesn’t. This article is not about that particular system for better or for worse or about my giving anyone advice. Essentially though what I have learned is that whenever we aren’t feeling well it is always a sign that the body wants and NEEDS rest and that in all situations where my own body is concerned there is a blockage of energy that needs releasing.
So what causes stress? Quite simply our own thinking causes the bulk of our stress. As an example I once was travelling to the city to work, the train was delayed due to an electrical failure totally out of rail employee’s control. They took action to get the fault repaired, they called for buses to take stranded passengers to where they needed to go and they informed all passengers what was going on.
There were well over a couple of hundred folk who this electrical fault impacted on. There was quite simply nothing more the rail employees could do about any of it and people just needed to ring their employers, inform them they would be late and wait for the buses. Most were fine with that but several became so anxious and extremely rude, loud, aggressive and obnoxious towards the rail employees simply because things hadn’t gone according to their plan that morning and so yes now they would be late for work. Their thoughts about whatever they were now going to be late for and perhaps how their own bosses would re-act to them being late were a trigger that created such a scene many fellow commuters were embarrassed by their behaviour and it led to many feeling and expressing empathy for the railway employees.
There is a story in Women Who Run With The Wolves. You can find it on page 328. If you don’t have a copy of this incredible and always life changing book of many stories for those who have read it, I do suggest you track down a copy, you will not regret it. I’ve had my copy since the early 90s and I still find such a lot of information, wisdom and inspiration within its pages.
The story I am referring to is called The Three Gold Hairs. It fits extremely well into the scenario of stress in our “modern world” and its impact on us. We actually become the old and withered dying man in that story as more and more stress envelops us until there comes a time where we simply cannot go on any longer with the pressure of the work “force” sucking away at us and impacting on us as we stagger through the dark forest with stress as our companion, primarily due to this whole work till you drop, constantly achieve and produce mentality that has become the norm for so many of us. We are really beings not doings and whilst yes there are things we need to do it appears to me we become healthier, more alive, more patient, more accepting and more energised when we do what we love to do, not what we feel or think we have to do.
It is a very necessary part of the feminine nature of life regardless of the sexual gender of our bodies to stop, to rest, to restore, to sleep, to dream and to nurture ourselves and to not allow our thoughts or the energy of others to create stress which engulfs us, for we are a bit like freshly baked juicy apple pies – steaming hot out of the oven and all will want a piece of us – just remember to always leave some for yourself and to bake yourself a new pie before you run out.
© Cheryl O’Connor 2014.
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