Stress is Normal Right?
We all experience stress. Work, home, family, kids, finances ... and on ... and on. Stress is a normal part of human life and we need to accept it and learn to cope with it. Or so many people will tell you. They will suggest you take up running to "burn off the stress." Or unwind with a glass of wine and some downtime. Maybe put on a mud mask and take a bath. Stress is normal, just live with it, right?
I'd like to challenge this notion.
No, let me say, I'd like to reject this notion.
As a litigator for twelve years, I've had more than my fair share of professional stress. As a girl (yeah I'm 42) who lost her Mama and Daddy at a young age, I've had a good dose of emotional stress. As a human with life-long panic and anxiety disorders (and a lot of hormonal imbalance), I've had a LOT of physical stress.
But I don't think all stress is the same kind of stress that can wreck havoc on your mind and body until everything hurts and any hope of concentration and focus is lost.
Many of those times when I was under enormous pressure in my litigation practice were the times I THRIVED the most. Let me put it into context. I chose to become a lawyer. I spent three years in school studying and have then devoted most of my adult life to trial work. I understand the stress that comes with long hours and hard work. I understand this stress, because I actually LIKE it. Not all the time or everyday. On a fairly consistent basis, my career has been high pressure. But it hasn't been high stress. Because many of the things I have done as an attorney bring me JOY. Working with clients, building a case, having the time and ability to think and strategize, research and writing, brainstorming and looking at everything. When I get to practice law the way I think I practice best, I feel pressure, but I do not feel stress.
And that comes with a BIG caveat. I don't feel stress, because I KNOW during these times I HAVE to take care of myself first. If you could see me in a busy deposition week, you would see a jar of green juice, a huge tumbler of water, a bag of yoga clothes for a class I have found that works into my schedule. You would see the healthy food and snacks I've packed to fuel me. Smell the essential oils I diffuse and wear for memory, concentration, focus, and steadiness. You would see my morning and evening skincare rituals (my personal FAVORITE form of self care), hear my playlists that pump me up and use that pressure to fuel me. You would see me going to bed early so I am well rested.
Because I learned a long time ago that pressure, whether external or from my own perfectionist self, doesn't have to equal stress. And in many ways, living in this high pressure zone leaves me the LEAST stressed. Why? Because I am doing what I love, what makes me feel strong, accomplished, talented, and empathetic. Because I am employing my top 5 strengths and have a self-care plan that works. I have a support system there checking in.
But here's where pressure turns to stress for me. When I am NOT practicing law the way I practice best, when I am not doing what brings me joy, when I make my needs and care second or third or fifth best. When severely empathic me gets tangled into other peoples psychological or emotional stuff. And like a switch flipped on, one day of this leaves me feeling like I ran a marathon. I am too tired, sore, wornout, bored, or listless to rock my self care routine.
Then, like a snowball rolling down a hill, the stress I feel from not living the life I want or choose makes friends with my adrenal glands. High anxiety and panic sets in for a long stay. And when this happens, even with medicine, I feel powerless to affect change to get back to that state of flourishing in my work and life. I become isolated (by choice), and just want to flee to make all of it stop.
As a side note, for me, adding alcohol to this mix has never been a good solution and it's just gotten worse with age. It just pushes that snowball faster until it becomes an avalanche.
This is where what I like to call emergency self care kicks in. I add extra magnesium to my diet. I take detoxing epsom salt baths. I double my morning and evening skin rituals that make me feel soothed. I reach for and diffuse energetic and calming essential oils. And I write.
On a fundamental level, stress is a choice. That job that doesn't bring you joy? It's a choice. That relationship that makes you feel unhinged? It's a choice. The tasks that you take on? Choice. Everything on your calendar is a choice.
You can choose to feel stress or you can choose to make radical and positive changes to your life to end the stress.
Now, hold the phone, I didn't say this was easy. Looking for a new job, taking on relationship problems, deciding what commitments need to G-O is hard work and will often take a long time. But if you can view them in the lens of "I am doing this now, so that in 6 months or 2 years, I can do what brings me joy" you have some perspective.
Then you can view this choice to live in stress for a set period of time as a means to a greater end.
But what you should do, no, I'll say, must do, is take care of yourself while you make the changes you need to release stress. SLEEP. WATER. EXERCISE. OILS. Activities and actions that bring a sense of calm and comfort. The more calm and comfort you can create in the midst of the chaos, the more your body will respond and tell the stress hormones to be quiet. The more your body feels like the threat is gone, the less physical and emotional pain you will experience.
For me, using a combination of essential oils internally, topically, and aromatically is what makes it POSSIBLE to live in this state of chaos without feeling the intense stress. Before doTERRA, I simply accepted that I was in pain all the time, and that sometimes my brain would work its magic and other times, it would simply attack me.
And I will own that I am not in my thrive state right now. That it's been a murder hard year with personal and professional struggles. But what I try to be, while I work through this period of a means to and end, is in a centered state. To choose not to BE stressed even if I feel stress, because my self-care game is so strong.
Because everybody may feel stress. But stress is in no way our normal state.
We can choose to live without feeling stress.