"I can't take this anymore"
We've all been there. We all deal with stress in different ways. Some balk under the pressure and stop responding, others simmer and then suddenly explode, we get angry, anxious, impatient or withdrawn. It all depends on how we relate to stress because reaching our breaking point happens when our ability to cope with the pressure breaks down.
An amazing number of us try to cope with it by just carrying on. Its like walking around for days with a stone in our shoe thinking, "I can stand this, I just have to work through it". Too often, we convince ourselves that we have no choice, and don't stop to think. If we did, we might take the stone out sooner. I am by no means an exemplar and this post is not going to merrily describe to you my zen approach to avoiding pressure.
Every year, usually in spring, I experience what I think is a build up of pressure. My inner balance is distorted and I tip-toe through a few precarious weeks of feeling incredibly wound up and at breaking point. As I become more aware of it, I can trace all the triggers and coping mechanisms but I am yet to avoid it completely. Over the years I have locked myself away, partied too hard, stopped eating, stopped sleeping, started running before dawn, chain smoked, pushed people away, needed excessive reassurance, danced, cut my hair off and much more. I have tried booking holidays when I know its approaching in an attempt to make it veer off course and avoid it but of course, it just ruins the holiday.
Some dear souls have noticed and tried to help me and some probably haven't noticed at all but helped me anyway and I have a lot to thank them for. A friend introduced me to 5 rhythms dancing which I found very cathartic. Another one put my head on her lap and stroked my forehead while I mumbled about a broken heart. Carol Rosati (my mentor), coached me to understand three "anchors" of family, relationship and career and helped me identify when one was adrift and how to anchor it again. One of my sisters helped me by showing me how to see the world through her rational, logical and straight-forward eyes. Others have challenged me, nudged me and pulled me through and in one way or another I always come out the other side and wonder what all the fuss was about.
We are not infallible and most of us experience pressure regularly and learn how to be resilient, hide it or channel it. The most common excuse I hear for letting it boil over is that we didn't have a choice and I believe, as adults, we do usually have a choice. I went to see a Shaolin monk once who electrocuted me with his fingers and he said something that didn't mean anything to me at the time but I am now slowly understanding. He told me I would be better off if I said "stop" or "enough" more often. I can do that because I choose to be where I am and do what I do. This is my life after all! I am an adult, not a child and this is the subject I initially wanted to write about when I started this post. Children most often don't have that choice to say "enough" and yet our education system is loading them with extreme forms of pressure when they are as young as 4 or 5. Kindergarten children take aptitude tests to indicate where they sit on the "normal" spectrum for skills such as reading and understanding numbers. They often know if they are ahead or behind and this mentality carries over to when they start school. At age 9 or 10 they start worrying about exam results which determine which school they go to at 11. They are then immediately streamed based on exam performance. Just writing this makes me writhe with indignation and I will follow this post with another one focused on how I think we can mend it and make it better for children in the future.