You’ve Got This!
My husband is in the middle of some health hurdles and it’s the hardest thing we’ve ever faced.
This morning, as we waited for the doctor to arrive with results from multiple scans and tests, I thought I was going to be sick, my was heart beating out of my chest. I looked at Mark, face white behind his mask, right knee bouncing up and down uncontrollably.
Each time we heard foot-steps in the corridor we stopped to look at each other in anticipation. “Look at us, sitting here scared of footsteps,” he said. I closed my eyes to count my breath in and out, in and out.
The doctor arrived and told us quickly that the tests were clear. We celebrated briefly, before getting back down to the business of the surgery he was already scheduled for.
As we drove home stomach cramps and chest pain kicked in. When I realised the last time I’d felt this way, I was a little taken back. I’ve ran my own business for several years, but I used to work for global organisations in leadership positions with significant responsibility, heavy workloads and travel.
At the end of a busy day, back in the hotel room, I’d often get stomach cramps, but I never gave it much thought, assuming it was due to eating different types of food. Periodically, I would find myself pausing, trying to take deep breaths to relax my tight chest.
During the drive home with Mark, I realised how much underlying stress I used to have in my body.
These past few weeks, I’ve been filled with adrenaline, ready for fight or flight. My body’s energy diverted, preparing for danger. A `gift’ we were born with to keep us alive, run from Tigers, swim like crazy if we fall in a river etc.
“When someone experiences a stressful event, the amygdala, an area of the brain that contributes to emotional processing, sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus. This area of the brain functions like a command centre, communicating with the rest of the body through the nervous system so that the person has the energy to fight or flee.”
Every cell in our body is focused on getting ready to run faster and respond quicker than we would normally be capable of. The body stops doing anything which isn’t required for escaping danger, i.e., digesting food. Our muscles contract ready for action, in my case tightening the chest and shoulder muscles.
Hey, I was busy healing that cut on your hand and repairing cells!
Sorry, pause all that please, I need help to escape this burning building!
My recent stress response was triggered by real threats, not a couple of deadlines and a presentation, but the symptoms in my body were the same!
I’d developed a tolerance to living in a state of mild stress, and in doing so exposed myself to all the associated health risks of heart attack, stroke, anxiety and depression. I was so used to feeling that way, I thought it was normal.
How many of us live like this?
The scary thing is, for years I wasn’t even aware, but now I know:
1. The “threats” were not real, but imaginary.
2. It had very little to do with external factors such as busy workloads, challenging leaders, difficult stakeholders etc.
3. Ideas in my mind created the stress, (disproportionate importance placed on work, feelings of inadequacy, leading to doubt, worry and overworking).
A few years prior to starting my own business, I did some soul searching, personal development, mindset and wellbeing work and the last few years in my leadership role were the best ever! I felt relaxed, calm, confident, had more fun and got better results. I released the stranglehold I’d always tried to have over my work, and stopped giving my power away to other people, deadlines and results.
Every person I’ve ever worked with would agree that they’ve felt this way at least once. One cheeseburger a month won’t kill you, make you fat or clog your arteries, provided the rest of the time, your diet is decent.
A bit of stress can be a good thing, but we don’t want to live there.
4 Wellbeing Checkpoints:
1. Your Mind. Does it feel noisy, cluttered and unfocused?
2. Your Behaviour. Are you multi-tasking, hurried, impatient and short tempered?
3. Your Emotional Home. Do you feel doubtful, worried, negative or sad?
4. Your Environment. Is your office disorderly, your car filled with litter and stuff you haven’t got round to clearing out?
The good news!
We exercise to take care of our body, and we can do the same for our whole self. The Global Wellness Institute confirms there are practices we can engage in to be proactive in supporting our overall wellbeing and move up the scale from suffering to thriving.
I no longer leave my wellbeing to chance, but these past few weeks I’ve had to dig deep to keep my head above water. I’ve had most of the processes below installed into my life for years and usually I am energised, passionate and alive. These past few weeks they’ve helped me survive, and I am grateful for them.
10 coping mechanisms if you’re facing a big challenge:
This is what I did:
1. Walking – get up and walk before the mind starts to race.
2. Break the day into bitesize chunks – the short term milestones can help maintain a level of balance and focus in the mind.
3. Meditate – if you’re new to meditation, it could be a challenge while you’re in the grip. Guided meditations are great for this.
4. Managing your thoughts as best you can – don’t chase the worrisome thought, it’s just a thought, and the thought itself cannot harm you. Let it pass. Shift and try to focus your thinking on a vision of the outcome you desire (and expect it).
5. Swimming (running, cycling, sport etc) – For me, swimming forces a beneficial rhythm of movement and breathing.
6. Cold water therapy (Cold shower, sea or lake dipping, open water lidos) 1
7. Yoga or Thai Chi – Movement and breathing to create focus, calm and mind-body connection
8. Homeopathic remedies for relaxation and sleep.
9. Eat nutritious foods, hydrate.
10. Accept or ask for support – you might want to talk and have someone listen, you may wish to say nothing, but have someone to hold a space of stillness for you, or just be around the people you love.
(You may also want to investigate other practices such as Reiki, Tapping, Counselling and other alternative healing therapies).
As Mark and I face the challenges ahead, we are so thankful that our powerful and positive mindset habits are already a way of life for us. We feel confident and empowered.
As so many of our friends have said, “You’ve got this!” Whatever you might be facing right now, you’ve got this too!
With love and gratitude
- Do your own research, seek expert advice and make the decisions about what’s best for you. For cold water therapy, make sure you are well informed about the safest way to introduce it, and speak to a GP to make sure it is safe and appropriate for you.