Stress is a word we use, probably on a daily basis, without even realizing what it truly means.   I’m going out on a limb here and make a proclamation to all of human kind.  Let’s even include all animals and even the planet in this.  That proclamation is this:  “You are one Stress Trigger away from killing yourself.”  One of the main reasons I write this blog is because I am you. I am learning, growing and sharing as I make new discoveries, often daily.

My self appointed job is to help you, the hapless stressed out, nerves fried, insomniac with either so much nervous energy you feel like you’re going to explode or you’re the one who is so tired you don’t think you can get through another stinking day….yes you.  All of you who think you know what stress is and think you have a handle on it, you’re fooling yourself.

I look for such telltale signs that screams “STRESSED OUT PERSON” when I see the belly fat protruding from your shirt, the thinning outer eyebrows, the dry or oily skin, the nails that won’t grow, the constant kicking of your legs as you try unsuccessfully to sit still, the running to the bathroom every thirty minutes to pee, the vertical lines between your eyes that tell me your liver might be giving you trouble and the horizontal lines on your forehead tell me maybe it’s constipation, the dark circles under your eyes might be coming from no sleep but more likely that is just a symptom of your stressed out flatlined adrenal function, the swollen under eyes scream to me that your kidneys are so stressed out they can’t flush the toxins out; and maybe you’re overweight, even obese.

Lets not forget you, the Business Executive who works 16 hour days, who works on vacation while the family is out playing, who sleeps just a few hours a night because you’re burning the candle on both ends working and going to school for your Masters Degree in order to get ahead;  and you, the sickly one who lives with pain day in and day out, either with or without complaint, maybe you suffer from chronic pain like migraines or nerve injury pain, or maybe you always seem to struggle with digestive problems.

It is NOT All In Your Head

Many of you have probably gone to your medical doctor only to be told there is nothing wrong with you, that it’s all in your head, or worse, that it’s “just stress” and you should relax, maybe get some exercise. Your high blood pressure, overweight, heart disease, diabetic heading body is just screaming for you to learn how to manage your stress. And you haven’t got a clue where to start. I have news for you, if you’re alive, you’re stressed.

Stress simply means the body’s response to change.  If your body can’t adapt and  flow with that change, then you create a resistance to the flow.  For example, did you know that just getting a vaccination, an infection, an allergic response, a trauma, a surgical procedure, struggle with an emotional concern, a mental blockage or a spiritual worry constitutes a stress trigger that can contribute to that resistance?  That resistance is what starts to develop unmanaged stress.  And this is where most people get it wrong….stress is not always good, it is not always bad.  But unmanaged stress is always bad for you.

Unmanaged stress will kill you. I guarantee it.  The key then, is to control your stress triggers before that happens prematurely.  Doesn’t that make better sense?  Managing your stress triggers is actually the one true way for you to get well and stay well.  The problem is that we like our bad habits, we like our poor choices, we like our suffering and our struggle.

We like knowing that life sucks, that you hate your job, that your spouse is mean, that your kids are brats and that your in-laws are out to get you.  Even better, we like knowing that when we do get sick, finally, we’ll have some quiet time to ourselves, even if we have to die from it.  Right?

Of course, I say all this in jest….or do I?  I’m hoping a chord has been struck with you, maybe in my joking, you have caught a glimpse of yourself, however brief, wondering “Do I do that?” and I would answer yes, you probably do.  We all do.  It is all part of the human condition.  As creatures of habit, creatures of comfort, even when we are uncomfortable in that comfort zone, we still choose to stay there because it is what we know.  If you make changes to your lifestyle, your health, your food choices, why…you might actually get well, you might actually improve your sleep, digestion, brain function, eyesight, concentration ability, pain level, friendships, finances and your spirit.  Who wants that?

If you answer “I do!  I want to get well” then it’s past time to stand in your full responsibility for where you are right now.

You Never Know How Strong You Actually Are Until…….

On September 8, 2020 I had to evacuate my home because of Wildfires approaching my neighborhood. I had two hours to gather up important items, pack for my husband, myself, my two dogs and cat. They all had priority over what I needed, as I was able minded and able bodied enough to make up for anything that got left behind. As often happens with an Alzheimer person, stress is not helpful. It can manifest in many ways, but often it is a slowing down of all their faculties as they struggle to make sense of the change being thrust upon them in a flick of a switch.  That just added to the stress for both of us.

To say I was in shock is probably mildly stating the truth. I walked through my home, trying to determine what items were so important to me if fire did come to my home, that I would miss terribly if they burned up. I grabbed a photo of my godparents on their wedding day, both of them long dead that would be irreplaceable. My husbands medications, dog and cat food, one suitcase with a few clothes, personal care items and a case of water.

In truth, I had a hard time finding anything that was so important to me that would be worth stuffing it into my already crammed car to take with us. I simply said a prayer for safety and prayed that I had grabbed what was most important or valuable to us. Then we drove away, not knowing if we would have a home to return to or not. Our first 24 hours were hectic. A friend gave us her living room to sleep in that first night. The subsequent 14 nights we spent in the home of my husbands caregiver. Not having to sleep in our car was indeed a special blessing to all of us.

Look For Blessings Among the Chaos

Within 24 hours of our evacuation I crashed. Total exhaustion and weakness. I’d gone for 24 hours without food or water, not because it wasn’t available, but because the stress of managing all of it just got away from me. Do I know better? Of course I do! Stress and the chaos of not knowing where we would land or for how long took away any awareness I would normally have about my self care. I do not recommend you do that.  Several friends arrived to rescue me from myself.  One brought essential oils and lots of hugs, another brought me food and liquids to re-hydrate and regain my strength.  They were Angels in human form, all of them.

I quickly regained my balance and daily we watched fire behavior, monitored local activity in our area and surrendered our fate to God’s hands.  We clearly had no control over what would transpire from the fire, but we knew there were many heroes on the front lines fighting to save structures and many behind the scenes who simply saw a need and filled it.  From the amazing locals who opened up their restaurant and just started feeding hungry people, to the loggers who turned firefighters and to the many who were comforting those who had lost their homes.

The simple grace of wanting to be of service in a time of need exploded into a movement where people who lost their homes were fighting fires to save others; and where many who had lost everything were feeding those who needed it as more neighbors emptied their freezers for anyone who needed to eat.  All gathered in one spot, the center of our little community, with smoke so dense it was difficult to breathe or see far beyond a car length ahead of you.  As flames grew and the red glow at night from the fires spread, local heroes, everyday people who needed a way to help, showed up.  They brought bulldozers and water tankers.  Folks from out of the area brought livestock trailers and moved ranchers livelihoods out of harms way.  Hay was brought in by the semi truck full.  Dog and Cat food was donated by the pallet full.

So much food, clothing and personal care essentials were donated they ran out of room to hold it all.  Local churches all had food and supplies for anyone who needed it.  As I’d go into the next town over where we were safely being taken care of, people would stop and pray for me when they discovered I was from the evacuation.

I was sleeping on a sofa, I had my dogs and cat with me in the living room, the caregiver gave my husband her bed while she slept in her den, she graciously contained her 2 small dogs to keep all the animals safe from their own stress triggers, and my cat spent 15 days in a small crate, room enough for her bed, her litter box and food/water.  Yet, daily, sometimes moment to moment, I could not have been more grateful.

Grace Always Wins

Twice we were allowed back in to check on our place, gather any items we forgot and to make sure the sprinklers were working to keep the ground wet.  I was able to grab another suitcase and pack a few more items, things like slippers and a few sweaters, sweat pants and more dog food I had stored.

I walked through my home, on a short time leash to get in and back out as fires were approaching.  We had no guarantee we would be able to get back out to the highway on the only road in and out so I could not dilly dally.  Still, I realized just how lucky we were.  Our home was still standing, our neighborhood thus far had been spared, and I had what was most important to me.  My family.  While other things could not be replaced if fire decided to take it, it could not take away my memories, my lifetime of experiences, nor my sense of deep faith that no matter what happened, we would be ok.  If we lost our home in the fire, we would rebuild from the ashes.  If we still had a home to return to, we would be happy to be home.

The Grace shown to me through all of this stress was how we would be ok, no matter what happened.  It showed me the kindness of strangers and the beauty of the human spirit.  It showed me that when we put God first, we are able to see, feel and know his Love in ways that may seem bad to some, but a blessing to others.  I saw all the blessings.

While I am saddened for the forest, my forest, the faery trails, the beautiful trees, all burned to the ground, I see the value in fire, in how it cleanses, renews and already new growth is sprouting.  Gone is one of the most scenic drives you could ever experience along the Umpqua River.  Gone is the incredible energy of this amazing part of the state but I look forward to the new earth that will sprout along with the new frequencies.

Grace, that even though 109 people did lose their homes, no one lost their lives.  Lots of wildlife and farm animals, dogs and cats did not escape.  My tears let loose for their sacrifice.

The Fall That Saved Me From A Heart Attack

I spent the last 15 days feeling the heart break, speaking of the heart break and creating the heart break in my physical body because I allowed the stress to create separation.  In truth it began a week before when one of my dogs almost died.  I felt my heart break, literally it cracked in my chest.  This is because I allowed my core to fracture.  In truth, when we are in surrender, there is no stress, there is no ‘thing’ that will cause us to react, we would simply observe and remain aware.  I failed to manage the stress trigger, I failed to take care of myself first.  Then I paid the price for it.

Last weekend I was at a workshop out of town.  The chair I sat on for our dinner gave way and collapsed.  I fell with a loud crack and hit the back of my head.  My neck cracked straight across and my body went numb.  I went into shock.  I had to be transported to the Emergency Room where it was determined I had a bruised cervical spine but thankfully, no fractures.  However, my blood pressure would not go down.  It was wildly high, very unusual for me.  It was stroke high, 210/105.

This is a clear example of how stress can kill you.  I later discovered I had a silent heart disease developing with a blockage to my heart.  Had that chair not broken and sent me to the Emergency Room, I likely would have suffered a stroke or heart attack.  This is the blessing of Grace.  This is why Grace always wins, when we can look for the blessings in the chaos, we find the hidden gems, those diamonds that look like black rocks that are so valuable in the end.

I am in such gratitude because I am always looking for the blessing.

The Real Lesson

Through the trauma and drama of September 2020, it became abundantly clear what the real lessons are in life.

Things are just things.  If nothing was so important to me to jam into my car as we evacuated, why do I have so much ‘stuff’ cluttering up my life?  Now that I’m home again, I am on a mission to clear not only clutter, but items that do not bring me any sense of purpose or joy.  The plus side is many people who have no home to return to will need a lot of what I am letting go of.  We both will get blessed.

Always remember to stay in your core.  Stress is always present, it will tug, trip you up and pull you down.  Had I stayed in my core, I would not have experienced heart break, both physically and emotionally.  Instead, I would have been aware of the sadness of the experience but not become part of the experience.  I would have been able to acknowledge how much I love my dog and do not want to lose her without that experience tearing me apart and damaging my own health.  I would have been able to be strong in my truth that all things are perfect and life is here to help us learn.  Instead, I allowed the lesson to almost break me.  I allowed the stress triggers to be more important than they deserved.

I am only as strong as my Faith.  When I felt the pain of sadness, I could have chosen to allow that awareness pass through me, not stay in me.  My spiritual teacher, Master John Douglas, often speaks of being in this world, not a part of it.  I now totally understand that.  To be in the world means to remain neutral, grounded, aware, enlightened (in the light).  I allowed myself to become a part of it where the pain and heart ache became a physical manifestation.  The difference is the first allows us to see it, experience and release it, the latter causes you to stay stuck in it and that is where illness can manifest.

We always have a choice, sometimes we just need a reminder.  Let this post be your reminder and may it help you start to let go of all the extra ‘stuff’ in your life that is not lifting your spirit.  We learn our lessons either way, choose the easier way.  Choose to be in the world, not of it.  That is how stress can be managed so eloquently.

Be well.  Thank you for reading with me.