This awesome image is of me interpretive dancing. Yep, I said awesome, cos that is how I feel whenever I pull out a contemporary 'So You Think You Can Dance' move. It's what I do to release stress. Dance around and be a goober!
About four months ago I was sick. Sick for at least two months (or more) with a cold/flu I just couldn't shake. It was hard to teach, hard to work, hard to laugh. I went to the doctors to have all of my bloods checked and surprisingly they came back exceptionally healthy, which was also a surprise for my doctor as I've been a lacto vegetarian for over 20 years. My iron levels were actually slightly higher than normal. So my diet wasn't the problem.
Anyway, this got me thinking. Why am I sick? The only thing I could think of was stress. My stress seemed like normal stress to me, stress because I'm the owner of a relatively new business and finances were always in my mind, stress because I was doing a lot, and stress because I was thinking about the future of my business and always trying to create ideas on marketing etc ...
After lots and lots of reflection it dawned on me that It was actually worry.
It was worry which was making me sick and not stress. It was my reaction to my stress. I chose to worry. I chose to attach to these thoughts and dream of them, make up 'failure' scenarios as to what 'could' happen and dwell on them. My reactions to my stress were so powerful they made me sick.
Things needed to change. I was anxious and sick.
So, how did I turn it around? Firstly, I observed my stress, broke it down, and I got myself out of the stressful situations I could get myself out of, the simple, realistic ones like cutting the stuff the business couldn't afford. I looked at my current situation and chose to praise myself and what I'de accomplished, and saw my thoughts of jealousy, anger and fear as a chance to 'self study' and mostly didn't attach to them. Notice I said 'mostly'? I'm only human right :)
I also realised I couldn't do everything. And my business couldn't be everything. A few years ago I got super excited and thought my yoga business could be a studio, a school, a mentoring service, an art gallery and an online resource. Realistically, this couldn't work. So I chose one thing the business was good at, and one thing only, and let the other stuff go. I chose to take time out even when I had stuff to do, because I knew that If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have time off at all ... and things can wait, and I also acknowledged that every single worry I had was a choice.
Stress is normal. Worrying is not, and it can be so harmful, it can make you ill and can prematurely age every cell in your body. Our reactions to our experience mean everything. They shape who we are and determine where we are going. Everybody experiences stress. We are not alone, although our reactions can make us stand out from the crowd ... and sometimes not in a positive way. Some people lash out in fear, some of us (me) worry instead. Both of these are not healthy reactions.
I now feel healthy and finally have energy again. This wasn’t about changing my diet, or my lifestyle, it was about changing how I reacted.
There are meditation / mindfulness exercises we can practice for this. When you are feeling stressed out, try sitting and focusing on your breath. Feel your breath enter and exit through your body and observe your stress instead of reacting straight away, then make a conscious effort to not attach to it and simply watch it pass. Make a decision to not react in a negative or harmful way to yourself or to anyone else. This decision, this choice, will change everything and it could take less than five minutes. Check out this cool animation.
Or, next time you're feeling stressed, get out your ghetto blaster (okay ... maybe your iPod) and dance around to 'Flashdance, What a feeling', Seriously, turn it up and pull some moves, dance and jump around the room like you're on so you think you can dance, or better still, dance for no competition and just do it for yourself. It works every time for me and it feels so good!! :)
Just one more thing. A few of my friends have looked at the image of me above and seriously have almost wet themselves laughing. So, if the meditation or the dancing doesn't quite work for you .. there's always my photo .... just saying.
Namaste. Ambika x
The Yoga Social Team