Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Stress

Yesterday, I woke up with many things on my to do list that needed to be accomplished. So I started working on them not giving a thought to where my mental and emotional state were. After all, I had just come off of a very peaceful and fabulous weekend, so I thought - things are lookin up!

But as Tuesday wore on, I was in frantic hyper mode trying to get 50 things done at once and growing ever impatient with myself. Without even realizing it, I really did not want to see any other living person around me and so I buried myself in more of my to do lists. It was a vicious cycle and one which has played out before but the thing was, while it was going on, I did not notice it. I did not notice what was flying under the radar hidden from my vantage point.

By the afternoon, I had almost exhausted myself from the stress I was putting myself under. Yet, I did not even realize that I was even doing this. Feeling very tired and worn out, I laid down on my massage table to just let go of everything and rest my eyes. During that time of rest, I began to become aware of what was going on. And then - it dawned on me - Thanksgiving was this week.

Thanksgiving used to be a wonderful time for me as a kid. There was all this food and we often got to travel to my relatives house where everyone enjoyed spending time with each other. Playing pool on the pool table at my uncle's house or just smelling the cooking from the kitchen. Waiting ever so patiently for the meal to be served which always seemed to take longer than expected while the football games would blast from the living room TV. Even if we did not travel on that day and stayed home, it was such a peaceful time, full of memories and we especially got the day to just be inside and maybe watch some TV or sleep in - you know - the stuff kids do. It was such a wonderful time.

Hold on one darn gosh minute! The above "wonderful time for me as a kid" was nothing like what I experienced. I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me! Thanksgiving was anything but this. If we had to travel to our relatives house, there was plenty of bitching and squabbling going on and oh the gossip would flow - all in catching up with one another of course and trying to talk about what was best for each family member. Yeah Right - as I roll my eyes a few times! The TV was so darn blasted loud that one could hardly hear anyone talk and maybe for good reason. After a few hours of this, my head would begin pounding because of the noise, the bitching and the squabbling. And since we were going to have a big meal for the day, we would often not get to eat anything until this point. Most of the time, it would be sometime in the mid afternoon before the meal was ready and by that time, I was so hungry, I didn't care what the food tasted like, I just wanted to stuff food in my belly.

And if we did stay home, it wasn't like we got to be kids and sleep in. There was always things to do and work to be done on our stupid little 3 acre ranch! And if my Dad couldn't think up something for us to do, there was always his moment of enjoyment which meant we went out and cut wood in the cold and snow. While he enjoyed it, I could have wanted to find something else to do for just one day of the year. And to not forget this momentous occasion one thanksgiving where my Dad felt we all needed to drink wine. Consider growing up in a home where everything was a sin including drinking wine and yet my father belittled me into trying to get me to drink the wine. The guilt trip he laid on me for exercising my right to say no to this was horrendous.

These were the memories of Thanksgiving that I have. While I would like to think they were the "Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving Memories" and as much as I would like to play like they were, Thanksgiving was anything but this. It was stressful and too many times, I witnessed my mother feeling sick or having a migraine during this day. Too many times, I witnessed my father wielding the rod of child rearing during this time. Too many times, I worked my butt off out in the cold and snow just so we didn't have to be one happy family around each other.

So yesterday, it was no surprise to me when I started to become aware of just how Thanksgiving was impacting me. In the past, I've almost laid a few big tough guys and ladies on the ground in stores because the anger of my own pain had consumed me. I still remember one year trying to pick a fight with two guys that were twice my size and to this day, I'm glad they just walked on and ignored me. It is amazing what the unresolved pain and hurt can do to a person. I'm also aware that so many others go through similar reactions like I do when it comes to the holidays.

While so much has improved for me, the stress of this time builds up. I've worked on building my own memories and while that does help, the pain of the past is still there as a foundation to my life. You can often do things to forget, but it doesn't mean everything ceases to exist.

Fortunately yesterday, I was smart enough to go to Yoga. When I got to the fitness center, my resting pulse was around 112 which is very high and even high for me. I did the Yoga and took my pulse reading again with the Finger Pulse Oximeter and my pulse had come down around 92. While that is still high, it had dropped 20 points. This morning when I woke up, my pulse was actually down to 68.

I'm glad I did Yoga because it helped reset and reregulate my autonomic nervous system. When we are out of balance and in the sympathetic mode of our nervous system, it is not uncommon for our pulse to be very high. If we can find a way to reset our body's nervous system and get back into parasympathetic mode, our pulse should come down. Yoga is just one way to help with this but the way I have found which works very well and very quickly is through the practice of Unified Therapy. I've seen my pulse rate drop from the high 90's down to the high 50's in just a matter of an hour on the table with Unified Therapy. Yoga is a good complement to this particular work and helps to maintain the work on the table. It is through the breathing and mindful connection of the body that we are able to make physical changes within our bodies.

If you are like me and struggle through the stress of Thanksgiving, I want you to know you're not alone. I've been there, done that and have far too many tshirts to show for it. If you can find things to do on that day that help ease your pain, do them! Don't feel like you have to do what society says you must do on this day just to appease people! Take care of yourself and give yourself the good memories and good experiences you deserve. Finding ways to help others can often be a good source of a soothing balm to help comfort your own pain.

And if you're one that has had happy memories, my hat is off to you. Consider sharing that with others who don't have those memories and being understanding of those that struggle through these times. Just thinking happy thoughts or whatever advice you may have just might not necessarily help the people who deal with intense pain during this time. Allowing them to just be in whatever way they need to and letting them know that they aren't alone, can be one of the greatest blessings you could give to those in pain. It might not seem like much to them but believe me, those thoughts given with the purest of love is a great and wonderful gift.

I'm happy that I was able to spot the stress beginning to show itself in my life like I did this year. In years past, it would have just completely pulled me under. While it is still difficult to some degree, I do try to do things that help take care of myself. The pain is not as difficult as it once was but it is still there.

So I'll end this on a happy note that I am thankful for how far I've come, that I survived this far into my life and that I'm beginning to really separate the joy from the pain of my past. I'm also thankful that I am able to write about this so others out there maybe won't feel so all alone on holidays such as this. May we all reflect on all that we have, not what we feel we don't have and may we all be extra sensitive to those who are still struggling to see this.

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