Why do we fall back feeling stressed, even after practicing the myriad of relaxing techniques?

No matter how hard we try, we end up feeling stressed, again and again, and start questioning ourselves: Did we try everything under our scope? If so, why were the results so frustrating?  Somehow, we remain hopeful that the anti-stress magic formula will manifest itself to us, eventually.

We may see stress as the feeling we get when we don’t know how to get over an obstacle. Once we find the way, stress fades out. But what happens after that? How do we maintain a relaxed state of being? Here are three questions that helped me:

Do I feel comfortable feeling calm?

For how long, before I start looking for something to do?

Can I still do the things I need to do calmly?

Realising I wasn’t used to feeling calm, stroke me like a profound epiphany moment. It might sound counterintuitive, mainly because we all long for relaxation, but that was my wormhole. I grew up used to constant rush feelings evoked by stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol and I adapted to them to a point where they represented my natural state. Then, like a falling rock from outer space, reality hit me when I understood how stress was the primary cause of my cascade of health issues.

I realised I had been unconsciously following a survival mindset pattern for too long. That is when my search for the anti-stress formula started. Soon enough, however,  despite learning how to relax, I realised I felt uneasy quickly and precipitated back into stress mode. But why? One reason was that I was attached to feeling stressed. Secondly, I had a distorted belief that being relaxed meant being lazy, passive or careless. Finally, I was not used to being calm, silent and still.  

Being stressed makes us feel highly active, almost euphoric, a feeling we associate with being “on top of the situation”. It becomes a sign that we are doing things right [of “safety”]. Once we make this our constant state, we get attached to it and even become addicted to the adrenaline rush flaring up inside. As a consequence, in the absence of stress, we start wondering what sensations we are looking for.  I had mistakenly labelled stillness and silence as feelings of emptiness and loneliness. And as we gave emptiness a bad connotation and loneliness is certainly a feeling we do not aspire to, I found myself wanting to get out of the relaxation state.

It took a while, but for me, the first step to the solution was to make it a habit to observe how the mind overanalyses these sensations. I would then reframe them as absence of adrenaline, distraction, external demands of attention, fear and intense emotions. Thirdly, I would let go of the resistance my brain would oppose and its craving for those experiences. I would repeat these steps until I became comfortable with the new sensation.

My main takeaway was that rewiring our brain through awareness upgrades our stress management skills. It is a step further in our awakening journey as it allows us to expand the shades of “acceptable” sensations and to let us flow, with less resistance, through the richness of life.

By understanding how our body-mind works, our focus turns towards retraining ourselves to feel comfortable with the experience of simplicity. Once we get used to the feeling of calmness, silence, stillness, we can remain in a balanced state no matter the circumstances. At least now, we know it’s possible.  

Post published in “Unzenable, A Guide To Stress Less & Be More”.

What Krishnamurti and Osho say about how to face anger:

About Anger

“To control anger is to suppress it. To say,  ‘I must not be angry’, is to create the opposite and therefore a conflict between ‘must not be’ and the fact that I am. Or if you try to escape from it, anger is still there.

I tried to control it, which is a waste of energy. I try to suppress it, which is a waste of energy. I tried to escape from it, or rationally rationalise it, which is an avoidance, an escape from the fact. If I don’t escape, control, suppress, or try to rationalise it, all that energy is concentrated. So, I have got that enormous energy to deal with one fact which is anger. 

You are angry, your tradition and culture say, ‘suppress it, control it, escape from escape from it, rationalise it.’  I say that is wasting your energy, which prevents you from observing the only factor, which is anger. So, anger has no opposite, there is only that, and you have the energy.

Now, why do you call it anger? Because previously you have been angry and by naming it as anger you have emphasised the previous experience. You observe the present factor with the previous experience, therefore conditioning the present factor. So the naming is a waste of energy also. So, if you do not name, control, suppress or escape, you have the energy. Then is their anger?

You are then facing the only factor. And when you are facing that factor completely, the factor doesn’t exist. “

Krishnamurti, Reflexions on the Self.

The Psychology of Anger

“The psychology of anger is that you wanted something, and somebody prevented you from getting it. Somebody came as a block, as an obstacle. Your whole energy was going to get something and somebody blocked the energy. You could not get what you wanted.

Now this frustrated energy becomes anger…anger against the person who has destroyed the possibility of fulfilling your desire.

You cannot prevent anger because anger is a by-product, but you can do something else so that the by-product does not happen at all.

In life, remember one thing: never desire anything so intensely as if it is a question of life and death. Be a little playful.

I am not saying, don’t desire – because that will become a repression in you. I am saying, desire but let your desire be playful. If you can get it, good. If you cannot get it, perhaps it was not the right time; we will see next time. Learn something of the art of the player.

….

don’t take anything seriously…not even yourself. And then you will see anger simply has not happened. There is no possibility of anger. And anger is certainly one of the great leakages of your spiritual energy. If you can manage to be playful about your desires, and still be the same whether you succeed or you fail.

Just start thinking about yourself at ease…nothing special; not that you are meant to be victorious, not that you have to succeed always in every situation. This is a big world and we are small people.

Once this settles in your being then everything is acceptable. Anger disappears, and the disappearance will bring you a new surprise, because when anger disappears it leaves behind it tremendous energy of compassion, of love, of friendship.”

Osho, The Sword and the Lotus, Talk #9

Are you attracting relationships with the same unwanted pattern?

If you have noticed similar issues repeating themselves in your romantic relationships, or in any relationship for that matter; 

If you have the same feeling over and over of unfulfillment—like something is missing— or your needs are not met for any particular reason, and most of the times, it has to do with the other person. You might be observing an unwanted relationship pattern.

A client of mine, Elena, saw a pattern in her relationships. She was surprised to notice she dated men with similar financial and sexual issues. On one side, Elena felt happily attracted. On the other, she didn’t feel her desires and needs were met entirely. Elena felt helpless. She knew what was the problem but was unable to solve it. They were not her’s to solve. But, she realised those issues ruined the desire for a long-term relationship. 

Why did she attract men with the same issues, and how could she break the pattern?

This can happen for men and women alike. I’ll start with the how and then the why.

How to break unwanted patterns in relationships?

A significant step I want to focus on today is moving from helpless to empowerment:

To step out of the helplessness and step into empowering yourself, find out what are you expecting to receive from the other you haven’t been able to give to yourself?

what are you expecting to receive from the other you haven’t been able to give to yourself?

Are you waiting for the other to make you feel:

• happiness • self-worth • financial security • pleasure • joy • love • fulfillment • confidence • respect • peace?

Take time to figure this out. It may be hard to accept and not that evident in the beginning. 

Instead of waiting for another to change, you need to do things differently. The answer to this question allows you to know what you need to do to create a shift. 

Then write down a list of things that you can start doing. For instance, to make you feel secure, take control of your finances and create a savings plan; schedule new activities that you enjoy; reconnect with friends or join a group with a meaningful goal in common.

We can’t control someone else’s habits, problems, or impulses. We can only change our selves. When we step apart from the victim position and take action, we discover we can take care of ourselves and move towards an empowered self.

As a result of your empowerment, you will emanate a different vibration, which will break the unwanted relationship issue patterns.

We need, however, to be grateful to this person who helped us reach this insight, for being a “mirror” of our hidden inner world and for our transcendental inner growth.

Why do we attract relationships with the same unwanted issue?

As children, we were unable to satisfy our needs and were dependant on adults to survive. Depending on our childhood experiences, if a need was unmet, the feeling could’ve stayed imprinted in our psyche or in our cellular memory as an unconscious program. A void from unfulfilled past needs feels like a default sense of longing in the present and unconsciously wanting to fill an emptiness. Which will never be filled because we can’t time-travel. We can acknowledge our feelings and heal them by mourning and giving us space to let out the feeling, as Alice Miller explains in her book “The Drama of a Gifted Child”.

As adults, we have the full capacity to satisfy our needs. When we realise that our discomfort in the present is because of a longtime inner-child survival mindset, an awakening happens.

Attracting healthy relationships

A pattern can be transformed when the unconscious child-need shift to an awareness of a present adult need.

Our expectations in a relationship change when we make ourselves responsible for our basic necessities. We even begin attracting different kinds of people.

A relationship becomes healthy when there is sharing vs. needy. When it is interdependent vs. dependant/codependent.

Relationships in our path to spiritual growth

In eastern cultures and spiritual scriptures, it’s said that people come into our lives to challenge our soul to grow. They can shake our shadow, an unseen part of our inner self, if there’s something to see and resolve. And for this reason, we attract someone that intensifies a feeling of discomfort to bring awareness and then heal it.

It seems like until we make ourselves responsible for fulfilling our own needs, we will attract people that will intensify the emptiness and make ourselves uncomfortable to move us towards change and growth.

Exhausted, but can’t stop. Then the “crash”.

Photo by: Dmitri Ratushny

This post is for those who find it hard to stop working, who wonder why even knowing they’ll crash if they keep going, they keep going until they crash.

Even when you’re rational voice tells you you’re going too far, you keep working long hours. Then, and only when you’re in bed exhausted or burnt-out or sick, you wonder why you didn’t stop and rest in time.

The daunting part is when you have fallen in the same “hole” over and over even knowing where the hole is.

Overachievers dealing with fatigue, burnouts, health issues because of lack of sleep and overwork, hope this insight helps you understand some of the unconscious workings of a busy mind.

Hidden Reasons Why

The pleasure, the feeling of fulfilment, the satisfaction of finishing something that you started, is so great it overdrives your inner voice. That internal body-sign that tells you you are tired and that you have to stop is barely heard. The feeling in comparison, is not as strong.

Eventually, fatigue makes you heavy, but with adrenaline at it’s peek to keep up with the demands, and the reserve energy so low, there’s not enough strength left for the brakes to stop the runaway train. So you continue under the impression: “if there’re no brakes it’s probably ok to do a little bit more”. Then the inevitable: The crash.

What Happens On The Emotional Side

It’s like being in a trance, and the idea to keep going seems to be the best rational decision. You don’t want to stop. Period.

Maybe it’s a kind of obsession or a sense of over-responsibility or a worry-guilty feeling for not being productive. Or it’s the numbness effect of high adrenaline.

Either way, the results on the emotional side tends to be guilt, self criticism and probably, feeling self-defeat.

What Happens On The Physical Side

Living under adrenaline rush makes you feel alive, anxious to get to the finish line. But without noticing it, in the long run, it taxes the body from reserved energy, impacting overall health.

Ways To Prevent Burnout

Changing a pattern takes three steps:

  • awareness
  • understanding
  • practice

Prevent the burnout cycle by:

  • Having someone to snap you out of it.
  • Practising self-awareness to delay gratification.
  • Having a percentage of detachment from worldly goals.
  • Awareness of being in survival mode.

Meditation Practice: The Unconscious Effect Of Time

Take time out of the scene and observe if there’s a difference in the urge of “doing”.

Practice will help you notice and jump the hole.

Being sick is not pretty in all its senses, but what you learn from it can be beautiful.

We all have been there.  It doesn’t feel good (you feel like sh*t!), you want to heal fast and you unfairly kind of hate your body. But while at it, there’s a chance to learn something that can be valuable for life.

Some years ago, I was surprised to realise that my biggest master when I was sick was my winter orchid.
She only gave me flowers once when I bought her and nothing for two years. Until that winter, when I was sick. I had put her in the bathroom to remember to water it (I guess she liked the temperature and steam).

So, every time I went there, I would stare at her for “hours” surprised to see her new buds growing. But she took her time in.  I was impatient about the flowering, even though I was amazed and happy it was finally happening. Until one day it stroke me. It was how I was feeling with my healing.

You can not force a flower to beautifully bloom; neither can you force your body to heal quickly. Have the same compassion for your body as you have for a blooming flower: Patience, acceptance and letting go control, are natures profound wisdom. To be able to acquire that is the secret to inner peace in stormy moments.

But still you need to love, feed and water it!

Winter Orchid

When you observe yourself, without judging, automatically something inside you changes even if you don’t notice it. A deep breath, a feeling of ease might arise when you understand your body and your emotions; Information to help you gain awareness is where I like to start because it’s the root for you to develop your own resources to manage tough situations and so increase your confidence. Therefore, I leave the to-do list and steps to the end. Sometimes I don’t give any because I know that your unconscious mind will give you clues on what to do.

Impatience for me goes hand in hand with expectations. Impatience to get healthy, impatience to receive that text, to get that job, to have a relationship. You are expecting that something happens now, that your situation changes. You have made up your mind and have a belief that the train has to follow a particular trail, and it doesn’t.

But only you have created that vision in your mind, and that affects the feelings inside you. It’s a reflexion on the unconscious mirror that you do not accept where you are at the moment. You do not accept your current situation. And it is ok not to be content with your life situation, but you have to ask yourself if you understand it.
Eckhart Tolle explains that it is not about accepting your general situation but accepting the moment you’re at in that situation. They are two different things.

Observe these key relations:

Impatience and anxiety, are linked;
anxiety and instant gratification, linked;
impatience and immaturity, linked;
immaturity and instant gratification, linked.

Have you observed or felt any of these?
Tackle one and you will automatically easy the rest.

The meaning of instant gratification is wanting something that will give you pleasure, now, how you want it and the way you want it. This behaviour is naturally seen in kids.

Immaturity, wanting to have it all and not sacrifice any option.

If I analyse the roots of my impatience, I would say it’s my inner child crying to fulfil its frustrated child-stage of play. As a little girl, my family had good times and bad times; and in those hard moments, I instinctively behaved and took charge of responsibilities that an adult would have, leaving no space for play and no time for feeling the freedom of irresponsibility. As an adult, and after an almost death experience, I’m aware of my limited time here, and that brings me the benefit of mindfulness practice, but unconsciously, I also feel the urge to enjoy as most as I can before I go. Also part of the existential anxiety of not knowing what are we here for and after feeling the void of emptiness once you stop doing, adds to my feeling of anxiety.

The Paradox
We find life meaningful only when we have seen that it is without purpose, and know the “mystery of the universe” only when we are convinced that we know nothing about it at all.  From The wisdom of Insecurities – Allan Watts.

Once you take care of yourself first, you will have more energy to take care of others.

When you try to get away from an aspect of yourself, it will be closer to you than ever: The shadow.

If you don’t accept your health condition; it will come back even stronger than before: You are killing the messenger.

The thing that got you sick in the first place, is the thing that is going to heal you: The mind.

If you what the result now, it will seem to take forever: When you stop waiting for something to happen, it will occur when least expected.

 

 
 
 

Most of what I write here I have done, and it has worked for me. But you know, sometimes I forget about it and need reminders now and then. I’m sure you already know some of the stuff on this blog. So my hope is that it’ll work as that mind-refresher we all need from time to time. Overall, I just wanted to say that we are on the same path together.

I would love to hear your story.

The thing that got you sick in the first place is the thing that will take you out of it: the mind.
Autoimmune disease

When you try to get away from an unwanted aspect of yourself, it will stay near you, closer than ever.
The shadow

Once you take care of yourself first, you will have more energy to love others.

Push your health condition away, ignore it; it will stay or come back stronger. Why? Because your body is already run-down, using whatever energy available to maintain your health. And you use energy when you ignore the illness. Because the root-cause is still present. Hiding it underneath the carpet won’t clear the dust off your home.

The Paradox

Once I accepted the wheelchair, I was able to come out of the wheelchair.

In my early days of recovery, I depended on a wheelchair to move around, even from the bed to the toilet. I got shivers the first time the nurses pushed it in the room. But I remember well the moment when I thanked the invention of the chair with wheels. Especially after being bored of watching the red brick wall view I had from my bed in the hospital.

My life was an enormous blurry crystal ball that could break at any moment. My uncertain future was mentioned as being tough and short. But for some reason, from the beginning, I think my brain activated a survival mechanism of disbelief. I did not agree with what the doctors and nurses said, with the wheelchair, with the hospital garments. I used my own colourful PJs, and I was certain I was going to be out of there in no time.

But after a week of laying in bed, the intense moment built up. After being forced to feel my body, to see if I noticed any difference between one side and the other, it was inevitable also to observe my internal mess; the unbearable boiling impotence I was feeling inside. I saw my raw reality in that moment. I saw where I was and how I was: half there and half not there. And I exploded.  I cried from the centre of my soul, so hard that my stomach crunched, my lungs had no air, and no sound came out of my wide open mouth.

And then my eureka moment happened. Sitting on the side of the hospital’s bed, with my red brick wall view, I surrendered. I stopped fighting the fact that I was f*cked.

When I let all the fear and grief feelings come out, when I accepted and surrendered, magic happened; I felt relief.

Accept and surrender

Accepting your situation helps make the best of what you have. To live the process is hard because it means you will feel everything, the unbearable pain but also the sweetest joy.  The journey is terrifying; there’s no doubt about that. But give the feelings a space to express themselves. Do it. Cry, scream, have tantrums.  You will appreciate the sensation that comes after, even if it lasts for seconds. And simple things will be transformed to incredible moments. The taste of vanilla ice cream and dark chocolate will be surreal, and a sunset will fill you up with gratefulness; Those little pleasant experiences get transformed into priceless moments in your life. And it’s beautiful. In the hard times, your senses get powerful. You start to connect with a deeper part of yourself. It makes you grow; it makes you stronger to accept your vulnerability.

Expect results, and it will seem to take forever.

Stop waiting for something to change now. It will happen when you least expect it. Don’t abandon yourself either, but stop putting yourself through the extreme pressure. Stop jumping on the weight balance every second. Keep working on your health, slowly, a little every day. Be compassionate with yourself; you have gone through a lot.

Accepting your weaknesses makes you stronger.

What if you take responsibility for yourself instead of taking care of everybody else?

That was a way for me to be distracted, occupied with something important. I ended up neglecting myself.

Ask yourself,

What if you stop running?
What if you take care of yourself?
What if you walk alone?

Is there fear?
Fear of feeling lonely?
Fear of feeling the emptiness?