“I am SO stressed!” That’s the battle cry for working women, which means ALL women, those who work outside the home for a paycheck, and those stay-at-home moms who work for jelly covered kisses. If our default is stress, then we block out anything else that might serve our lives better—like stillness. It’s not enough to think that stillness is a mirage that looks good in the distance; you must bring it into your here and now in order to turn that mirage into a real, concrete tool for a more fulfilling life.
Stress is not something that happens to us; it’s something that we manufacture in our own mind and body as a result of how we interpret circumstances.
Haven’t you ever had the experience of waking up in a good mood for no particular reason, and it’s almost as though you’re wearing an ass-hat shield? No matter how many idiotic people get in your way, you are above it. Then other days, your teeth are on edge from the moment you step out of bed, and even your beloved dog ticks you off when he wags his tail the wrong way. What is the difference? Spoiler alert—it’s not the dog.
I know that the thought that you are in charge of your own stress feels, well, a little stressful, but it shouldn’t. This is good news people! It means that with a little noticing, and a LOT of practice, you, too, can be less stressed—huzzah! How do we make that happen? Create a new default mode.
I tried to sign into my PayPal account yesterday, and it kept defaulting to the account that I used to set up my first PayPal account back in the late 90s. One of my friends was buddies with the founder of PayPal, so I was one of their first clients. But I don’t use that email anymore. I’m not that same person anymore.
Having my account default to an old me is a waste of time. Kinda’ like choosing a stressful reaction to a challenging circumstance.
That habit may be a waste of time and energy, but it doesn’t change quickly. This is not a one-and-done task. For me, this default goes deep.
If you were raised in a dramatic home, where nothing was peaceful, then stress is normal for you. That doesn’t mean it’s good for you. It does mean that it may take a long time to re-set it—like years. But then again, if you do nothing, you’ll change nothing. Any behavior change takes effort and courage and hope. Yesterday, I went to yoga, and our fabulous new teacher, Abigail, had a different take on the theme. She said it wasn’t enough just to still our mind, but we could choose to expand the stillness to its edges, breathing it into our heart and spirit.
So, I tried it.
I focused on the feeling of my body on the mat, and the feeling of all the wise women around me, and the hope that built Girl Power Station, a hope for a world where girls of all ages choose to support each other instead of seeing another woman as only competition. I let that stillness expand to include all the girls in our volleyball gym, and then all the women working or studying in our county, our state, our country. And as the stillness expanded, I found an exquisite bounty of love. I felt buoyed by hope.
I was overcome by the knowledge that my mission was not only possible but inevitable. In that moment of stillness, as the tears of gratitude rolled down my cheeks, I realized that all the worry and stress of running a business was just a story. This bounty was the only reality. I realized that I can choose my reaction, as long as I stop long enough to notice the stress before it shuts me down with a migraine. It’s a matter of creating a different default.
In that nanosecond after something difficult happens, I can stop before sliding into stress. I can take a beat and remember that epiphany on my yoga mat and the feeling of all the hugs from my beautiful yogis. That bounty can be my new default, if I let it.