Stress Test: Is What’s Stressing You Out Worth the Agony?

deflate your stressThis summer, we decided to split a CSA share with our neighbors. Going halfsies not only reduced the cost (and the sheer amount of lettuce we’d need to consume), but it also made it a lot easier to handle the required weekly trips to actually pick up our vegetables, which was a major concern of mine when we were deciding whether or not to do it. Because when you have to either take a bus, walk 15 minutes through the crowded streets of downtown Brooklyn, or coordinate a ride while also being considerate of the babysitter’s schedule and/or a toddler’s mood, a simple run to get the vegetables can get all sorts of complicated.

That’s why, when our neighbors were out of town for two weeks in a row and I found myself on double vegetable-pick-up duty, I got a little flustered. One fateful Wednesday, I had 20 minutes to get the vegetables and make it back home before it was time for the sitter to leave for the day. The sun was blazing and the bus was late. I was standing on the sidewalk, stewing, when a friend I hadn’t seen in many moons spotted me and stopped to say hello.

“How are you?” she said. Before I even thought twice I said, “I’m stressed! I have to go pick up these vegetables!” I blurted out the whole story about the neighbors, the sitter, and the late bus. And she had this look on her face that instantly deflated my bubble of angst. It basically said, “Could it possibly be true that you are stressed about vegetables?” That’s when I got it–that my particular situation was so not worthy of my reaction. A quick check in with my senses—feeling my feet on the ground, the sun on my face, the look of amusement on my friend’s face, the sound of fellow bus-waiters chatting—shifted my attention away from my stress and on to that particular, serendipitous moment when I had an unexpected chance to reconnect with a friend.

Sometimes stress is just a habit. If any little thing goes wrong we shift it into an automatic “oh sh*t!” response. Habits are comfortable, like an old pair of shoes that are so easy to slip on that we forget they give us a blister until it’s too late. Next time you find yourself in a tizzy, ask yourself, is this really worth the tight muscles, shallow breathing, and swirling mind? Sometimes all it takes is a tiny little pinprick of consciousness to burst your stress balloon. Couple that with some deep breaths, or a quick walk, or a downward dog, or some shoulder shrugs, or whatever helps you feel instantly more lighter, and you can start to re-shape your habitual response to stress.

Of course, there are always going to be scenarios that are legitimately stressful. But those are subjects for other Vegimentals (or, I cover remedies for 77 of them in my book).

What’s something silly you’ve gotten all worked up over? Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win something great.

Congrats to Kathy Mullinex!
She won a copy of the book better back for her post on her she’s keeping the flame alive on a self-care practice she’s gotten away from. Thanks everyone who wrote in. Here’s her quote:

“I NEEDED to hear your Vegimental, Keeping The Flame Alive. I hurt my back and have been in bed for over a week. Getting up and going to the bathroom was a marathon in itself. I was beating myself up the first few days because I could not do my daily exercise routines. The stress of that did not help my back. Then I did some deep breathing exercises that I learned at a Pain Management session and my head got on a little straighter. My thinking got clearer and I stopped yelling at myself. Mid-week I was able to get up and move around a little, but sitting still hurt. So, I just kept getting up and walking and doing my deep breathing, and the slight depression I was feeling about being laid up went away. I started looking at my injury as a mini vacation. Thanks for being there.”

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Take care and keep breathing,


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2 thoughts on “Stress Test: Is What’s Stressing You Out Worth the Agony?

  1. I am all stressed out these days about where to live. In the process of moving, I have forgotten my work, and convinced myself I don’t know how. As a health counselor and yoga instructor, I know deep down that none of this is true. Yet, being totally ungrounded and not knowing where to live has me caught between a rock and a hard place, unable to get really still inside with knots in my stomach. It’s not getting any better trying to figure it out!
    I pray for a solution to my overwhelm and for the ability to let go of thinking there is anything WRONG with the present moment! All is well…

  2. These past two weeks I was completing a major project-from-hell, while trying to plan a complex 2 week business/pleasure trip right on its heels: multiple towns thousands of miles apart, multiple visits with friends and relatives in each location, 3 presentations, a training session and more! For the first time in years I found myself waking up in the middle of the night, stressing over how to get the tightly scheduled logistics to come together with absolutely no time to devote to working it all out because of the project deadlines. I couldn’t even give cogent instructions to my assistant because of all the possible permutations and interdependent factors. Finally, I gave up trying to meet everyone else’s schedules and dithering over all the cost-cutting measures and other stressors and constraints I was piling on. I took three deep breaths and said “Universe, we’re going to work this out NOW and it’s going to be perfect. Here’s what I really want.” I painted the picture of the ideal trip without contraints then told everyone involved, “This is how it will work for me. Improvements to the plan are welcome.” In 36 hours, everything fell exactly into place, with some great suggestions that made it even better! Wow, am I looking forward to this trip!

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