Saturday morning my spouse and I went to Central Market, our local farmer’s market, for our weekly shopping. For the first time in over a year, all doors were open wide welcoming us. Although my logic part knew I wasn’t “breaking the rules,” my good girl part felt sneaky going in a doorway closer to the parking lot rather than traipsing to the corner door, waiting in the queue to be counted. My heart rate quickened and I sensed my eyes shifting back and forth–almost like a rabbit in the lawn scanning her surroundings for predators.
Breathe in. Breathe out. All I am is my breath. I repeated this mantra to myself several times.
Once inside, my body felt a surge of electricity. This was clearly the most number of people and in closest proximity that I’d been around in over a year. Get the hell out!!!! Part of me screamed. Needless to say, my threat response was on and ready. My logic part chimed in–You’re fully vaccinated; you’ve had Covid; AND you have a mask on–chill out!
But to a stressed-out nervous system in threat response, judgemental logic at its best is unhelpful and at its worst is like trying to put out a fire with gasoline.
Breath in. Breathe out. Name 5 things you see. Four you hear. Three you physically feel. Two you can smell. I practiced while walking the aisles. I put my hand on my stomach and let my scared younger parts know I was here. And being freaked out made sense. I let them know I would listen more later.
My nervous system settled a bit as my spouse and I finished our weekly shopping, and I became more curious about what this experience was like for other shoppers and vendors. Most vendors were masked and behind their plexiglass still. What is it be like for their nervous systems to be in this crowd all day? Does it feel good to be “getting back to normal” or do they feel overwhelmed and stressed or perhaps a little bit of both? What are the other shoppers feeling? Did any of them have the nervous system surge that I did? How did their parts experience the surge?
Driving away from Market I felt tremendous relief–the relief of having a way to understand what was going on inside of me while in Market and a way to be with me. What must this be like for the many people who don’t have such perspective or have practices to help them?
That’s why I’m writing here and put together this book on Befriending Your Stress. We now know that before we can effectively deal with the stressors, like how we handle shopping in a crowded market, we need to deal with the stress. This is a COMPLETELY different way of engaging ourselves than most of us were taught. And for the logic part of us, these practices can feel awkward and counterintuitive. My logic part needed to know some facts about this. It also knew that what I was doing before these practices wasn’t helping. So it gave me permission to try something new. My lived experience has taught that when I tend and befriend my stress and complete my own stress cycle, I can listen to logic and make informed choices that work for me.
Here’s how that played out with my parts after Central Market:
I asked the parts of me that were so scared at Market what they needed. They let me know–so long as I wear a mask, they would be ok. They trusted me and saw that the trip hadn’t been that bad. It was just different, and my younger parts can get scared by sudden changes. My logic part was completely onboard with masking so long as I can engage activities needed for daily life. My Self thanked all of me for showing up.
If you find yourself arguing with yourself and applying logic but still feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or shut down, learning to befriend your stress and complete the stress cycle may help you. If your curious, you can download this free workbook on Befriending Your Stress. Learning your unique system and how to complete the stress cycle doesn’t take the problems away but it equips you to live differently with and in them. Get the booklet here.
To start your journey of awareness into acceptance in mindful action, download our free workbook on Befriending Your Stress. These practices can help turn inward and listen to the wisdom of your body, mind, and spirit.