When life throws you a curve ball, what can you do to help your body and mind truly recover from a stressful event?
I guess you’ve already figured out that I blog about what’s happening to me, so yes, I experienced a partcularly stressful event. Well actually there have been several stressful events in our life over the last year: a financial one that started back in October ‘14 and won’t be dealt with entirely until 2015 comes to a close, a medical one when my beloved daughter had a seizure at Christmas last year, a few family ones as various family members go through their own stressful events, and in March this year the stressful event that tipped my balance, sent me on an emergency flight back to the UK and turned my world rather upside down.
After a BIG thing happens in your life, how does one return to being an empathetic coach, an active member of the wellness community in Hong Kong, an inspired writer, a devoted wife, a patient mother, a considerate employer, a dedicated yoga practitioner who is up with the lark every morning? How does one do all of these things when actually all you want to do is sit in your pyjamas and watch re-runs of Game of Thrones to distract you from what your little world has temporarily become.
How could I possibly coach others and guide them towards their best, balanced and joyful selves when I was experiencing sabotage to my own balance? After all, coaches are human too.
Of course it depends on what the event was, how long it lasted for and how directly it affected you. It depends on the support system you have in place to help you out. It depends upon your attitude towards the event, whether you internalise or externalise the cause, and your desire to recover from said event. It depends upon your ‘base point’, your ‘normal’ – what are your expectations of what normal should be? Are you quite unused to high stress and discomfort as part of your daily life? Or have you been forced to accept discomfort for so many years that it now feels part of your normal and you’ve forgotten how to fully recover at all?
Well, for me at least, recovery needed to be efficient and it needed to be effective. That type A, list-maker, box-ticker came back into play and I needed to ‘achieve’ my normal again. So I enlisted all the help I could get. I asked an amazing spiritual advisor I know for a Skype call, I met with my endlessly supportive health and wellness coach here in Hong Kong, I chatted online to my business coach in Tonga, I talked to my oldest friends whom I’ve know since the beginning of high school, I talked to my newest friends in Hong Kong, I talked to family, I think I probably even talked to myself. That ‘support network’ of people whom I cherish so dearly were absolutely one of the main reasons that I was able to initiate the recovery process, to start to heal.
But still my cortisol levels were all over the place, of course I gained a few pounds as my body had gone into ‘fight or flight’ mode and was holding on to everything it could get, my menstrual cycle dropped from a healthy-for-me 28/31 days to a mere 20/22 days and my skin, that has been ‘as clear as a bell’ since my late 20’s when I changed my lifestyle, suddenly started to break out.
It was happening to ME, the COACH! Those things that I tell my clients about all the time, the visible physical effects of stress upon your body, were taking over MY body without being invited and I was afraid that I’d start to feel like a fraud. But no, thankfully all it did was strengthen my resolve to heal and to put to test the theories of physical, emotional and spiritual recovery that I discuss with all my clients, all the time. I’d healed once before, after leaving the finance industry, and I needed to heal myself again.
So, ‘in the outside world’, I saw my clients and coached them with as much love, grace, honesty and energy as I could muster. I saved-up my positive energy for them and they kept making all the progress that they so well deserved for their efforts. And being with my clients, as always, gave me so much inspiration and purpose that every session was even more uplifting than the last.
But behind closed doors I slowed… right… down…, I honoured my body and S-T-O-P-P-E-D. (Wow…even as I typed that the world around me seemed to stop turning, just for a moment). I slept – a lot! I spent more time with my amazing husband and daughter; my strength, my loves.
We need to STOP in order to heal. We need to talk, to cry, to scream sometimes. Then we need to stop (again!) and allow the healing to continue. But how long does that part take? I’m not entirely sure for everyone and of course it depends on the crisis, on the stressful event and on how that translates for them. But if we do not allow ourselves to stop, to honour the process and accept it, to actively engage with it, then I don’t believe we can fully accept the pain we are feeling, to face it head on, to really get to know it and understand it, to enable us to recover.
If you try to keep going, to keep those plates spinning, the wheels turning, then eventually the whole thing will come crashing down around you.
Do you honour your pain? Do you face the darkest parts of yourself in which the pain resides?
My yoga practice, as ever, was my unavoidable and absolutely necessary mirror. The mat literally took on a reflective quality as it shone brightly, right into my eyes (every damn morning) and lit up the places I least wanted to look at, both physically and otherwise. And I felt real, true pain in my body in a whole new way that I’m certain was an embodiment of the pain I was feeling inside (that was a little ‘hippy-dippy’ I know, but for those of you who practice yoga regularly I’m sure you’ll concur).
Recently I finished another truly exhaustive and exhausting yoga intensive training through which I was able to delve deeper into the whys and wherefores of the pain. It has taken me most of this year to heal and it has taken most of this year for that physical pain to dissolve – see the pattern?
I am generally a ‘bright side’ person, my glass is invariably half-full and that got me through the year with lots of bright moments and many, many reasons to smile. But the real healing was going on underneath those bright moments, my ‘story’ was re-forming itself and I was building up new reserves of strength to leave that story behind me again and return with purpose to walk my path. Suddenly I’ve turned a corner, the story is somewhere in the distance; its still there but I’m no longer lugging it around on my back so I’m able to gingerly pick up speed…
And perhaps this is one of the last stages, ‘going public’ again? (Last time I did this my yoga practice opened up so much, even the very next day. It’ll be interesting to see if that is the case again – I’ll let you know!)
Are you healing something now? Have you been carrying some old ‘story’ or samskara around with you for a while? The first step to healing is S-T-O-P, rest, reflect, seek support, find reasons to smile, S-T-O-P, rest, take a look in the mirror through a daily practice, find more support, enlist a coach, talk to your friends, S-T-O-P, rest, eat well, sleep lots and take the time to look into those darker places that are hidden maybe even from yourself. Face yourself head on, then walk forward along your path with purpose.
With love, Rowena x