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April: National Stress Awareness Month

Keeping expectations in perspective.

Hi everyone, this is Amanda! April is National Stress Awareness Month, and I believe that this month has never been needed more than right now for all of us. Just this past weekend I had the worst migraine I have had since college. Complete turn the lights off, can’t get out of bed, can’t function type migraine. I saw a provider for a virtual visit to get medication prescribed again and he asked “so what are your normal triggers?” and I said “stress is the big one, but I really haven’t been stressed lately.” My husband side-eyed me and proceeded to remind me of the 100 or so things that had prompted a stress/anxiety reaction in the preceding few days, weeks, months, year. 

Here’s a reminder: we’ve just spent the last year in a pandemic. So many other events have occurred which have brought deeper systemic issues into a bright light and forced many of us to evaluate our relationships, beliefs, who we are, and what we stand for. Many of us have experienced frequent, if not constant, fears about our safety, health, financial security, job prospects, housing – the list goes on. Your nervous system’s driver seat has been controlled by the sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight/freeze/fawn) and it’s like the gas pedal has been mashed all the way down and you’ve been speeding down I-77 at 90 miles per hour. It’s going to take some time to downshift. 

This month will be focused on solutions for stress management, but here is an assignment for those of you who are taking some time off next week for spring break to get a jump start. We often have so many expectations for time off. Expectations are just premeditated resentments, and often those resentments are directed inward. “Why didn’t I get more done?” “”Why don’t I feel more relaxed?” “I was going to make it through all of these books and clean my house, but I didn’t do any of that, I’m so lazy!” I’m going to offer you an invitation – to have no expectations for this week other than tending to your basic physiological needs. Those are respiration (breathing, simply paying attention and ensuring that you’re doing it is a good start, but breathwork via apps like Calm are also ways to support this), circulation (move a little, whatever makes you feel good and is the opposite of sitting in front of Zoom for 8 hours), water (try to shoot for more than you remember to drink on a typical day), food (just eat regularly, most of us forget this; proper nutrition is important too but simply giving our bodies food regularly is a good start for most of us who are overworked), and elimination (remember how you get so busy you forget to use the bathroom for like 8 hours during the workweek? Yeah, don’t do that this week). It’s amazing how simple these things are, and how often we ignore them because we are too overwhelmed. Just focus on this in the upcoming week and give your nervous system a break!

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