Thursday, May 26, 2011

Taming The Tiger Known As Stress

I have no doubt that the fight-or-flight response is useful when facing life-or-death danger. Problem is my brain can’t tell the difference between deadline pressure and a wild-animal-is-about-to-eat-me-alive danger. My stress button is broken.

This became really clear last year when my anxiety train jumped its tracks. I started to worry, and I couldn’t stop. I often woke up in a panic and couldn’t sleep.

Once when talking with Erin about this, she asked what my anxiety felt like. I think I responded, “It feels like the hands of fear are grasping my heart and won’t let go.” I wasn’t exaggerating. It was terrible.

Thankfully, I’m mostly better now. Circumstances changed and so did my perspective. But I still feel crazy waves of stress hormones flood my body on an all-too regular basis. (I’m sure you do, too. We’re kind of a stressed-out nation.)

In addition to making me feel sick to my stomach, stress hormones --- namely adrenaline and cortisol --- also screw with fertility in a major way. Our bodies were designed to not get pregnant while under chronic stress. Our bodies don’t know that today’s chronic stress might mean too many emails in the inbox, not an actual lack of food, water and shelter.

Anyway, I’m trying to let my body know everything is OK. It can stand down, take a deep breath, relax. If police officers, fire fighters or medical personnel aren’t needed, it’s probably not an emergency.

My latest remedy for stress is beauty. I’m consciously surrounding myself with as much loveliness as possible.

By beauty, I mean simple things, like a clean kitchen, a well-fitted sweater, a cup of fresh berries, a piece of jewelry or a pretty scarf. I might even start painting my nails.

The idea is to embrace any tiny luxury that can relay to my panicky subconscious that the world isn’t coming apart at the seams. I mean if I was really about to be eaten alive by a tiger would I worry about the dishes in the sink, would I take a moment to apply lipstick or arrange a flower in a vase?

I think on some level all these little gestures signal times of peace and cue relaxation. My overly-stressed body and mind need to hear loud and clear that the future is bright and needs babies to fill it.


  1. I like this idea! It reminds me of an acupressure stress-relief technique I read about recently. You think of your fear while the acupressure is occurring and your mind realizes it shouldn't be freaking out because suddenly your body is so relaxed. Maybe the same can be accomplished with a beautiful pair of earrings!

  2. You really should try acupuncture (I'm it's new spokeswoman you know). My friend Tara is doing it for post-partum and anxiety issues and is doing A LOT better.

    Go to the NCCAOM website to find a practitioner.