Chronic Stress is Habit You Can Unlearn

Are you stressed? Are the responsibilities too much to bear? Are you frustrated because your life isn’t going the way it’s supposed to go? Are you just trying to get through the day? Do you find yourself not wanting to say hi to neighbors because you just finished a day you wish you didn’t have?

All work and no play makes a dull one doesn’t it. When everything looks like a responsibility and not a relief or a break or fun, then life feels heavy. I know.

I commuted to a job I could barely stand. It was about 4 hours every day of commuting and the work was all drudgery. I was afraid of leaving and kept that job so I could support our life in San Francisco. Our expenses seemed to grow each month. I tried to exercise every day to undo the stress, but I just exhausted and injured myself too often. I felt so trapped, but I sucked it up because that’s what parents are supposed to do I thought.

That sucking up caused so much secondary suffering. I ended up hating my life. I hated where I lived. Everything looked like a responsibility that would never let me go. It was a chronic and unrelenting stress that felt like a vise.

Thankfully, thankfully, thankfully, that all changed. Right now…

  • I’m a father of 15 year old twin girls (I can’t believe how awesome they are); they are so much joy.
  • My wife and I both work at full-time jobs.
  • My wife recently had breast cancer and is taking tamoxifen (which causes a cascading series of unwanted effects).
  • I have financial concerns for my kids’ school costs and have to have constant diligence.
  • I am an active real estate investor working to find ways to grow the portfolio.
  • I eat a regimented ketogenic diet.
  • I do a regimented training schedule where I measure blood work, body composition, time under tension, and other things.
  • I practice piano every day.
  • The kids always have some kind of appointment or need some ride.
  • I’m writing a book with a good friend and it’s requiring a lot of research.
  • I meditate for 45 minutes every day.
  • I have two small barking dogs that cause primarily happiness but also a lot of unexpected and strange work.
  • I write on this blog.
  • I try to surf every weekend, but Ocean Beach just pummels me.

Am I stressed? In moments I can be, but no. No, I am not stressed. I am happy. I’m doing more now than I have really ever done, want to take on even more, and I have never been happier. Almost everything I am doing is exactly what I want to be doing.

What’s the difference?

I learned to meditate. In meditation I learned what resistance is. I learned that resistance creates secondary suffering. I learned that when you accept how things are right now, resistance looses its footing. When resistance looses its footing, it can’t stand next to you with its blindfold over your eyes. When you accept your situation, you can see how things really are instead of repeating how bad things are over and over in your head. Acceptance is not a lack of action. It enables you to see the most meaningful thing behind what’s going on for effective action.

Resistance is the problem. When you resist something, you create a repetitive negative loop which can cycle over and over. When that happens, you become even more sensitive to notice negative scenarios and over time your outlook changes. When that happens, it’s hard to see the good around you.

When my negative thought cycles became visible, I could accept them, feel them and watch them ebb and flow to dissolution.

Resistance becomes visible because meditation teaches you to pay attention to your physical feelings in your body. That’s how I noticed it all. It was the physical feeling of stress.

Because I can accept the pains of the day and see them as transitory visitors, I can also see the incredible beauty in the life of my girls. I can see my wife patting the dogs with a high pitched voice and see that beauty, too. Also, I know that all the people I run into during the day are stressed. I know where they are mentally as the pedestrian curses the cyclist and the cyclist curses the driver, and so I have compassion for them.

For the difficult conversations I used to put off because they were uncomfortable, I now find them to be the single most productive things I can do. There all the little things you knock off your task list and then there are the difficult conversations that change the direction of your life.

I wish I had learned to meditate much, much earlier in life. I’ve heard it said somewhere that the first best time to do something was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

 

 

 

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