This is me on stress! This is one way I deal.
When I am stressed a walk in the woods always quiets my mind and makes me feel more present. My work is to remember this simple truth when the shit hits the fan.
I love the smell of the forest and taking deep breathes of the crisp, fresh air. The air feels light and dances past my nose. The sounds of the stream crackling over the frozen rocks as winter thaws. In the snow it can be hard to tell sometimes if you are over land or water. You may be walking on water and never even know it. A little miracle.
When I am stressed I lose my balance and it can feel as if I am being pulled out of myself into the vortex of my spinning thoughts. My idea of what I need to survive this wave of anxiety instantly becomes distorted and the path to the couch, gross food, my phone, emails, facebook, a drink, a smoke lays before me paved in gold. Those old, easy patterns fit like that perfectly worn shirt and feel familiar and comfortable. That shirt is filled with holes though. Those old patterns don’t always serve me and my work is to notice them and make new patterns.
So, back to the woods…
I like to see my footprints in the snow and know that in fact I was here, as was the deer, and the rabbit and some funny bird that dragged some stick halfway across the mountain. I stop and look around and notice all the trees doing exactly the same. Standing, breathing, waiting. The trees live life with such patience and stillness. I do not feel like a tree often. I more often feel like Wacky Waving Arm Inflatable Tube Man.
Life is not stressful in the woods. It’s inevitable. There is violence, though little drama. Life, death, change, success, future, past all meet in the present in one constant unfolding, inevitable moment. I am reminded that I too can find stillness within me by quietly sitting and waiting like an old, wrinkled tree with deep roots and new leaves.
In moments of stress it is easy to revert to old patterns to get through. We resort to what we know and what we know is what we do all the time. The path of least resistance leads to our comfort zone and that is where we want to be when we are stressed.
My mindfulness practice helps me to bring awareness to the moment so that through the ceaseless brain chatter I can identify what I truly need to help calm and quiet myself. If I can take a deep breath amidst the storm and make a decision that is actually going to help me, like a walk in the woods, its a huge victory.
I am working on this and will always be. Its circular, not linear. It’s really hard and takes practice and forgiveness. I do know that I am on the path and that is sufficient. Especially because I know I am not hiking alone. How do you manage stress?