My default setting is still STRESS!@*!$%

Posted: June 13, 2013 in Exercise, Learning
Tags: , , , ,

But whatever.  I was definitely walking the line that could land me in front of the yoga studio pulling at a locked door.I was running a bit late to make it to yoga this morning.  For no particular reason.  I had done some speed reading and Spanish studying and was catching up on email and just lost track of time.  But whatever, I was definitely walking the line that I might end up in front of the yoga studio pulling at a locked door.  So it’s not like I hyperventilated or anything.  But I was definitely and obviously a visible ball of stress when I walked in the door.  And I had forgotten my yoga mat.  You know, one of those things that is pretty essential for the yoga practice.  Fortunately I had just forgotten it in the car and was actually early enough to run back before the door was locked.

But of course the point is not that I spaced out and had a close call in making it to yoga this morning.  At just about every level I realize that missing a particular yoga class is in no way going to affect the scheme of things in my life or in the lives of others.  Really.  I mean that.  But my fight or flight mechanisms definitely kicked in an didn’t stop until I was sitting on the mat in the studio.  This is definitely not an optimal way to live life.  And not only does it take some time off my life every time this happens, but those around me have to deal with the crazy person who is not quite hyperventilating for no apparent reason.

This isn’t a new thing, of course.  But my hope was that after a decent part of a year without exercising that particular set of muscles they would atrophy and fall away.  I guess that does make me an eternal optimist.  Since that didn’t happen it’s probably time to check in on that particular aspect of my life.

I think that one of the reasons that this particular reaction is so ingrained is that it actually worked for me in my early days as a software engineer in a naturally high stress job.  Here’s how it went.  Something would happen at work that blocked progress and caused stress.  This could be anything from finding a nasty bug to get a crushing flame mail from a highly placed moron elsewhere in the company.  I would grab one of the other guys that I worked with that smoked (or chewed) and we’d head out for a cigarette (or two).  That would bring the stress level down to a low roar, I would have the opportunity to talk through the issue with someone I trusted (after all as a smoker, you trust all other smokers, right?) and then I’d use the combination of the slightly dulled stress reaction and the nicotine buzz to power through the next couple of hours, no matter what time of day or night it was.

Now of course I have no desire to start smoking again and honestly there are so many things wrong with that picture at so many levels that I bring it up only as a way of digging into why I react the way I do now.  I believe there are some things about that scenario that can be useful without dragging in nasty smelly habits.  For instance, one of the aspects of smoking that I have seen batted around in a number of places is that for people who for whatever reason aren’t great breathers, smoking helps them remember to draw deep breaths.  So figuring out a way to naturally breathe deeply when something unexpected and possibly stress inducing happens is probably a good lesson to take away.  I spent a considerable number of years sparring (as in kung fu fighting) and while I was never great, I learned in that context to breath rather than hyperventilate or hold my breath when someone came at me with fists and feet.  So I can certainly do this in non-smoking situations, again the key here is to generalize a recognized ‘cure’ so that I do it naturally in all situations.

Another lesson to learn from my early pattern is that talking through a stressful issue with a trusted friend is often the best way to deal with it.  And you don’t have to go outside or down to the garage to have that kind of talk (if you don’t need to light up a cigarette).

The final aspect of that situation was the ability to channel the stress energy into constructive work.  I did a lot of constructive work in those days.  I can’t quite figure out how to translate that into my current healthier lifestyle.  Perhaps yoga and other things will help me have better energy and be more productive in general?  Any thoughts?

In any case, I’m going to try to change my default setting to mellow but dangerous, so watch out world!

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