Sunday, December 27, 2009

Yogi Under Fire

The practice of yoga is all about rewiring the fight or flight response we have in challenging moments. Through breath and mindfulness, you begin to change the situations you're in, or at least how you're choosing to perceive them.

That's all well and good for those challenging moments. But what about prolonged situations? How does the aspiring yogi handle long periods of challenging, anxiety-provoking times?

Since Thanksgiving, my family has been managing a fairly consistent challenge. With stress levels already pretty high, I came home for the holidays prepared to give support and broker some sense of calm. A challenging situation from afar; I jumped head first into the fire.

Returning to the question at hand, how do you deal with ongoing stress? Here's what I've been working with in the wild, wild west:
  • Create space (for you) -- I've had to work pretty hard to find time away from all the madness of the drama at hand. But I've really needed the time and space to have the energy I need to be supportive to anyone else. It's been challenging for a few reasons: logistically, I'm without a car; emotionally, it can be hard to leave someone when they're hurting (even if you don't have anything left to give them).
  • Perspective -- Although the situation here is admittedly pretty bad, I know it won't always be. It's been really helpful to remember that. I believe things will be better for everyone involved, eventually.
  • Parse & Prioritize -- While perspective tends to feel like a future-looking worldview, the immediate issues still need to be resolved. Break down the big problems into smaller more manageable pieces; then order them according to importance and linear progressions (this has to happen before that, etc.). If you want to move out of your place, you probably want to find a new place before you pack all your stuff up.
  • Talk -- Human beings are uniquely social--we need to communicate. It's healing to speak to friends, family, partners and even professionals (therapists, social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, etc.) about what's on our minds. Also, how we feel about any given situation gets molded and refined by our contact with others. Pain, regardless of the cause, has an illness narrative.
  • Find the Good -- Some people would call this perspective, but I think it's different. When you make the conscious choice to be happy, meditating on the good things -- especially at challenging times -- helps keep you there. This situation doesn't make me happy, but I am (sometimes with a little help) able to find some positive things that have come out of it.

I have a few more days here in the thick of it, so I'm open to suggestions. I'll keep you posted. :-)

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