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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”.