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Sunday, April 17, 2011

I Pee On Stress!

On Friday morning, I walked into my office (of my day job) to find a little clipping from a newspaper or magazine. It was strategically placed on my keyboard. It said:
"Learn to Handle Stress Like a Dog: If you can't eat it or play with it, then pee on it and walk away."
First, a BIG thank you to the co-worker who left it there. I needed it. It was a rough week and it brought me laughter which is a great natural medicine. It also brought me some wisdom cloaked in the guise of humor. Dogs, and my co-worker, are really brilliant that way.
Let's think about it for a minute. We internalize stress like no ones business. In fact, we're learning (when I say we here, I generally mean people much smarter than I am) that stress is a silent killer. Working diligently over years to shorten our lives and make the time we have alive, harder and less enjoyable. Don't let stress win... Just say no to stress, RELAX DAMMIT! Yes, great advice, but difficult to follow.

So, how do we deal with stress more effectively? Lot's of people suggest meditation or relaxation techniques, but these, if not done effectively can actually add stress to our lives. We, essentially, beat ourselves up because we can't concentrate or don't know how to do it (meditation that is). And frankly, finding the time to practice meditation can add stress as well. Let's face it, meditation is hard work.

I'm going to take a bit of a diversion here that has a point, so stay with me, okay? Have you ever watched a program like Mutual of Omaha's Wild Africa, or something like it? A program where an unfortunate gazelle or deer gets run down by the consummate predator? It's difficult to watch right? Well, here's the thing... Imagine that the gazelle gets away. Sometimes they do and here's what happens... When the gazelle is at a safe distance away from the danger, I'm guessing they know this purely by instinct, they collapse. Yep, they collapse into a heap of nerves and shake until the 'stress' is relieved. At which time the gazelle gets up and trots merrily on it's way. Stress dealt with. This is the natural way to deal with stress. To allow the physical reaction to it. Even mental stress creates physical symptoms. In the gazelle's case, the physical symptoms are initially adrenaline and other things that fuel the "flight or fight" response. The gazelle can't fight, so it flies. (Check out Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body by Peter A. Levine)

Now, how does this relate to my stress or my point for that matter? Well, people don't fly & generally, don't fight either. Ha ha, you know what I mean. We essentially internalize this stress. We can't help it. Our society doesn't look well on collapsing into the shakes after a stressful business meeting. And it certainly doesn't allow us to deck the person who just ticked us off or treated us badly. I know we like to think it does, movies for instance are great for showing us this is okay. But honestly, we know there are real consequences for acting this way. You also have to remember that I am generalizing a little bit here. I know there are exceptions to these observations, that people do fly off the handle and physically react. Things like road rage do exist. But you have to ask yourself, does road rage exist because we've finally pushed down enough stress to blow like a Paula Dean pressure cooker? I think there's some merit in that observation.

Here's another... observation I mean. When the gazelle is in fight or flight mode, non-essential systems shut down. What's non-essential, you ask? Well, things like digestion. Interesting huh? Do you see where I am going with this? If not, here it is... Americans live highly stressful lives (the reasons for that, I'll save for a later posting). In fact, some reports suggest that the American life is one of the most stressful in the world. What other thing have we been hearing about lately? Obesity. Could it be that the stress we are not effectively dealing with, is shutting down our non-essential symptoms like digestion? I think so! I think it's a really valid conclusion. We know stress can cause us to eat as a way of finding comfort. So, in this case, stress carries a one-two punch! And of course in some cases, obesity can shorten the life-span. So the less we deal with stress, the more likely it is to affect us, physically and emotionally.

Now, back to the brilliant clipping left at my desk. "Learn to Handle Stress Like a Dog: If you can't eat it or play with it, then pee on it and walk away." What a wonderful idea! Let's be clear, I am absolutely, positively not advocating that you ACTUALLY pee on things... or people... that upset you or cause you stress. Although I do think that could be cathartic. Also, what you do in the privacy of your own home is none of my business. However, we can all visualize this, can't we? The next time you feel particularly upset, whether its traffic or people who treat you badly or even the water bill that pushes you over the edge, visualize yourself peeing on it. You heard me. Just metaphorically pee on it and walk away. I did it several times on Friday and I have to say it was wonderful. This may be a little crass, but honestly it relieved the stress almost immediately. Huh, maybe the phrase "relieve myself" actually makes sense to me now! If nothing else, it will make you laugh and laughter is a powerful weapon against stress. So, go forth good people, and pee, pee, pee!

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