Stress Management and Bear Hunts
Once upon a time I wrote a blog on the topic of stress for work. In this blog, I suggested that often stress is like the ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’ poem by Michael Rosen. Whilst we can manage stress better (here’s how), and we deserve help to do so, I usually find that:
“we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, oh no we’ll have to go through it”.Michael Rosen
Once I hit on this idea I was surprised by how much it started to resonate with me. Love it or hate it, it works for me. At periods of high stress or anxiety in my life, I have often reminded myself “this too shall pass”. And here lies the crux. Often the sad truth in hard times is that the only way is through. We have to hold tight, keep calm and carry on. Or any other epithets you choose to apply.
Another well-known mantra, thanks to Finding Nemo, is ‘just keep swimming’ which I have adapted for the purpose of this blog. To me ‘just keep swimming’ implies plain sailing. Blue skies. Calm seas. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always loved swimming. It’s something I associate with relaxation and holidays. A sense of liberty in the water. Weightlessness.
This is not how I experience stress or anxiety. My anxiety is turbulent more like a whirlpool or storm. I feel buffeted by torrents of thoughts particularly the pernicious ‘what ifs’ which seem to delight in plaguing me. Getting through these times is nothing like I interpret ‘just keep swimming’.
Take it Back to the Breath
The one thing that does get me through; more often than not, is a reminder to myself to just keep breathing. Sometimes focusing on my breath can quiet the overthinking I am prone to. It brings me out of my head. The counting gives me a sense of time passing and something to focus on too. Often I experience anxiety as a varying severity of nausea or stomach cramps (more here on how to beat nausea). Breathing helps calm the sickness and gets me through the pain and discomfort.
Occasionally the anxiety or stress is so bad I forget to breathe. As the rising tide of panic comes I remind myself to breathe. Or often, someone needs to remind me to do that. I tell myself that breathing is the the only thing I need to do in that moment, the most important thing. As my yoga teacher consistently reminds us, take it back to the breath.
Is your stress like going on a bear hunt? What gets your through these hard times?