Sometimes you have those really profound realizations. You know, the ones that strike you like a lightning bolt, right before you doze off to sleep? Well I had one of those the other night and it was life changing. Best of all, I still remember it. Even better, I am going to share it.
I’ve been learning a lot about how my body responds to stress and relaxation. A few weeks back I had an intense stress response reaction after I heard my three-year-old yelling outside. It sounded like he had lost a limb. I was certain it was a life or death situation. I was helpless and I was alone. I didn’t see him right away, but I continued following the screams. There was no injury or blood. It turns out he was vocalizing with the chickens in very inappropriate ways. Even though he was fine, it took me three to recover from the stress responses that went off in my body.
What has helped me understand a bit about this phenomenon are three things: 1) Ongoing emotional therapy 2) Ongoing yoga practices 2) Dr. Lissa Rankin’s book Mind Over Medicine. It is not until the final chapters that I really understood the point of her work: stress inhibits physical healing, stress causes us to get sick. Relaxation helps us to heal.
Well, then you see. I got sick. I’ve been struggling with a peritonssilar abscess for almost two weeks. Is stress to blame? Uh… maybe.
Which leads me to my life changing realization. I’m an entrepreneur, right? I do the things I love, right? I’m a writer, an artist, a small scale producer. I provide professional services in areas of my expertise: sustainable agriculture, environmental education, community development. I manage an art gallery for a local art center. Sounds great and sometimes it is. BUT, I have this one problem you see. And actually, I’ve had it since college. I pursue the things I love, which inevitably leads to some kind of stress at some point: deadlines, conflicts, responsibilities, whatever. Well, what happens when you do the things you love, is it gets harder to turn to those things into a form of relaxation.
I used to go out bird watching and get completely overwhelmed by the course content I needed to develop for a wildlife class I was teaching. Now I start planting my garden, and think about the summer months in which we will sell herbs at the Farmers Market and then I start thinking about the grant project I am working on in relationship to sustainable economic development and direct market options for vegetable crop producers. I go to work on some art, and I think about the work I need to do for the expansion of the gallery space by July 4th. Overwhelming.
Well, I realized in order to overcome the stress response and achieve a relaxation response from the things I love, I needed to first flip a switch in my brain. That’s what I did. I flipped a switch and did something I never did before. I visited cuteoverload.com.My brain juices benefited from the cute photos of primates.
And I laughed out-loud, hysterically while watching a 2 1/2 minute video of a dog slurping an orange.
I’m not ashamed. It felt good. It was good for my heart and my soul. I was able to relax at night and be more productive and healthy as a result.
My lesson learned: laughter is good medicine. And there is always ALWAYS time for a little joy in life.