On a scale of 1-10, most days, how stressed are you? If you asked your partner (and kids) the same question, what would their number be?
My son and I just returned from visiting my brother and his family in Celo, North Carolina, a small artist’s community in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Of all the places my globe trotting brother has worked, lived and studied–China, New Zealand, Australia, Seattle, Italy, Croatia, Austin– this remote area of North Carolina is where he chose to land.
It rained almost all week, but we didn’t care–it caused us to slow down to a snail’s pace.
We slept in treehouse studio next to Kert’s farmhouse, lulled to sleep by a soft gurgling creek, cool temperatures, fresh mountain air and gentle luminous fireflies. As our technology free week unfolded, I could feel strands of stress from my body unravel and seep out the windows absorbed into the ethers and looming Black Mountains. I awoke every morning feeling deeply nourished and rested–something I haven’t felt in a while.
Inevitable life events can induce tremendous stress–a death in the family, a huge work project, a divorce, job loss, a health issue. But as I explore the correlations between stress and self-care, the two causes of stress I’m most interested in are our patterns of a)constantly moving too fast and doing too much and, for some, b)our need or desire to control everything which leads to an exaggerated sense of responsibility and the feeling that life has become a never-ending, no-way-out juggling act. Actor Larry Eisenberg wisely said,”For true peace of mind, we need to resign as general manager of the Universe.”
Contrary to common belief, often we’re the ones creating stress for ourselves.
Recently I watched Escape Fire, the award-winning documentary on our health care system, (highly recommended!) and was reminded that 75% of all disease is stress-related. Emails, commutes and phone bills are triggering the same response in many of us that we’d experience upon encountering a bear in the wild. We’re living in a constant “flight or fight” state, releasing adrenaline and cortisol–stress hormones– all day, rather than saving them for when they’re really needed: during life-threatening encounters in the woods!
Something’s got to give.
In the midst of re-crafting how I live and work (for starters I desire to feel more connected to nature in my daily life and less plugged in), I’m realizing that one of the most crucial self-care practices I could embrace is to live and work at a more humane pace. And this is going to require me to do less and let go of the need to control.
I’ve come a long, long way since my super woman days and now, regularly take time for self-renewal. But there is a deeper calling beckoning me to a much simpler way of life.
Does this conversation speak to you? Carve out some time this week to pause and ask yourself, what is the single biggest stressor in my life (that I have control over) right now? What baby step could I take to begin to bring more relief and spaciousness to this area?
My friend and esteemed teacher/wellness expert, Dr. Claudia Welch, (check out her amazing book Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life–which she says should really be titled Balance Your Life and Balance Your Hormones!) says her mentor once shared, “Knowing we are confused is the dawn of clarity. If we sort out what we truly need to be doing from what we are in the habit of doing, and begin to take little steps in the direction our soul is calling us to walk, we may actually get where we want to go.” Amen.
LET’S DE-STRESS TOGETHER: Join me and Jen Lemen/Hopeful World Publishing Sept. 16-Oct. 25 for The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal Online Experience. This exciting *new* 6-week interactive, online class is the perfect solution for anyone seeking to reconnect with who they are and dive deep into the power and energy immediately available when we bring our focus back to self-care. Learn more and sign up now; space is limited.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance teachers/speaker author Renée Peterson Trudeau. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and numerous media outlets. Thousands of women in ten countries are participating in Personal Renewal Groups based on her first book, the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. Her newest release is Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and son. More on her background here.