Episode 035 Stress
This morning a dream of mine came true. I was about to take a yoga class with Dana Trixie Flynn, the co-founder of Laughing Lotus. Today was also the day that I had been dreading for a while because I dropped Brett off at the airport for his 5-month adventure travel job. He is leading adventure tours all around the U.S. so our time together will be limited for the next 5 months.
Knowing today was coming, I booked a class at Laughing Lotus because I knew being there and practicing there would make me feel better. I showed up to help out as well because the class was packed and we needed all hands on deck!
The room filled past capacity and so we had to create an extra room for people who still wanted to practice. Dana came out of the room and asked me to teach the class!
I think my jaw dropped to the floor. I mean this had been my dream for so long and this opportunity was dropped in my lap.
In all the many hours I have thought about this, I never ever imagined it happening this way. I planned to have the perfect sequence and the perfect playlist. Everything would be perfect, and yup; none of that happened!
I taught a class in the moment with less than 30 seconds to prepare. It kept everything truly in the moment and I can't believe even now that it happened.
So I'm flying high off of that experience and am so happy recording and sharing this week's lesson!
This week we are going to dig into stress; what is is, how it affects our bodies and ways to deal with it all.
Last weekend, (May 20 & 21) I took an Ayurveda workshop focusing on women's health and hormones. The workshop was led by Dr. Claudia Welch who in my opinion is a true wellness rockstar. There was a ton of information given out and one of the biggest takeaways I got was the role stress plays in our overall health.
Stress by definition is a state of emotional or mental strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.
I wanted to start with a clear definition because I wasn't exactly sure how to put it into words. Stress, while by definition is mental or emotional, can feel very physical and affect your spiritual and energetic body as well.
Stress and stressful situation are inevitable. Hell, living in NYC and trying to get to an audition or work on time while relying on the MTA is stressful enough! You can't avoid stress, but you can decide how you react and deal with stress through every situation.
When our bodies get stressed out our hormones release cortisol or "the fight or flight hormone." Now, I know what you are thinking. "Why would our bodies release the fight or flight hormone if I'm stressed about the MTA?" Because our bodies and our hormonal system can't differentiate between different types of stress. All the body knows is that it's stressed and so it releases the flight or fight hormone to protect you.
When that happens our heart rate increases and our arms and legs begin to power up. Why? Because our body is preparing to either fight physically or flee the situation. Cortisol was designed to keep us safe from harm. In the earlier evolution of humans (think back to hunting and gathering)we were in the face of danger much more often. Coming face to face with bears or fighting off rival tribes is why we have this hormone.
Now in 2017, we get our groceries from the store and barely come into contact with our neighbors so we don't really need the fight or flight hormone the way it still shows up in the body. In general, we are living a much safer life than we did at the early par of our existence.
Our modern day lives are conditioned from an early age by success, winning, and being the best. Our value is geared towards career, money, and marriage; so as we go through life we are working our asses off to achieve these goals and here begins the stress. Standardized tests, SAT, auditions for your BFA, recitals, moving to the city, joining the rat race and keeping up the fast pace of life causes our bodies and minds to be stressed out. Top that off with managing friendships, building relationships, surviving tragedies, and it's no wonder we need help!
We stress ourselves out and we can't really help it. It would take some serious reprogramming to let go of the messages and signals we have ingested for so many years. It can be done, and until we are ready for that sort of deep work we can find ways to deal with stress here and now.
Ha! I know what you may be thinking: "I know I didn't listen all this time for you to tell me to breathe!" Yes! Yes, I am.
Here me out. As I said earlier when our bodies are stressed our heart rate accelerates and the greatest single thing you can do is manage your breath.
Start with a giant inhale, hold it for a few seconds and then slowly exhale. Consciously controlling and slowing down your breath will slow your heart rate. When our heart rate is accelerated we lose the ability to make a calm and rational decision. We begin to make decisions from a foggy brain and might not act with the utmost integrity. Start with a few slow breaths and see if that helps. If not, get more specific and again counting your breath.
4 count inhale, 8 count exhale. 6 count inhale, 12 count exhale.
When I was a social worker years ago I was trained in crisis management. The very first technique they share is how to de-escalate the situation and get the person to breathe. Using breath is this way gets you into your rational mind. EMT and first responders are often asking a person in an emergency situation to take a deep breath, and then explain what's going on.
Breath work is simple, free, and best of all works 100% of the time!
Save yourself the apology texts from what you said when you were stressed out of your mind and take a second to breathe before you react.
Stress can feel very isolating, especially if you don't have the opportunity to leave the situation behind. You might feel like you are stuck or that nobody understands what you are going through. I know for me it feels as if I don't want to burden anyone with my problems so I often keep it to myself.
Medicine for stress can absolutely come from connecting with friends and or family. When you connect with people you release hormones called oxytocin or the cuddle hormone. Do you need to actually cuddle or be physical with someone to get the benefits? Nope! Meeting a friend to hang out in Central Park, having a meaningful conversation, or Face Timing your Mom will allow you to connect and balance the abundance of stress hormones that are swirling around your body. So if you are stressed out at work, schedule to meet up with a friend on your day off. Are you stressed and exhausted at this past audition season? Grab your roommate for a night on the couch with a Harry Potter marathon. It's all medicine.
3. Do one thing less
We are performers trying to balance and create a life with many interests and commitments. Often we think we need to do more. More auditions, lose more weight, take more classes. Think about how much stress you are causing by adding more and more on your plate.
Can you do less? It makes me squirm just thinking about doing less. Everything in our system wants to do more. We think if we work harder we will win harder. Show up more and be seen more.
Doing less even if it's one thing creates space and that space is so special that it feel sacred.
My way of committing to doing less is to block off 1 day that is completely untouchable. No teaching, no subbing, no doing anything that I don't want to do. It's one day a week that just for me and I can schedule it however I want to. I can see a show, head out of the city, or even sleep all day. It's my one day to do less.
There are many ways to cope and handle stress. Today I just touched on 3. Next week I will share how stress can show up for each dosha and how consistent stress can throw you out of balance.
For now: Breathe, Connect and Do Less.