I’d like to begin by planting a gigantic kiss of thanks onto each of your cheeks if you responded to my call for help last week, and even onto those that didn’t; come on, have a smooch. The quantity – and warm quality – of responses blasted my whelm status way beyond its OVER setting and I’m truly grateful. I hope it can be the start of something creative, fulfilling and useful for all of us.
As it turns out, I’ve also been inundated with work from my film and copywriting clients in this last couple of weeks too. And while I’m grateful for the income, the sudden jump in workload has, I must be honest, caused my stress levels to surge as well.
I don’t know about you but when my to-do list stretches beyond a certain length and I start to wonder how I’ll get it all done in time, my mindset moves from manageable to a little manic. Sleep becomes light and patchy, my mood quite scratchy. And with every new client demand that vibrates itself into my inbox like an early earthquake warning, I find myself fantasising about an evacuation plan that always ends in a hide-out in the mountains and begins with throwing my iPhone in the toilet.
I don’t say any of this for sympathy by the way, just to paint the picture. And I’m also fully aware my “problems” pale in comparison to others, and the stress I’d feel if I had no income incoming would dwarf this version for sure.
No, the reason I say it all is it’s got me to thinking about how we think about balance, equanimity, about stressless-ness, about the qualities of the philosophies of living well.
And I wonder if we mistakenly suffer from the misconception that unless we live like serene and saintly yogis who never blow our tops then, therefore, we must be flops.
That if we feel stressed out or angry or upset or frustrated and really need to vent it, need to scream and shout, need to throw our iPhones in the toilet and run up a mountainside, then we’re failures for not quelling this internal rebellion with a deep breath or a downward dog.
Which, quite frankly, is frank and spanking poppycock. Don’t you think?
The idea of the unmovably meditative monk, the unceasingly peaceful swami, who tackles the challenges of everyday life with a parable and never breaks a sweat in stress, is just that – an idea. An ideal.
Sure, there might actually be one or two of those super-species kicking about. There’s almost 8 billion of us, after all, so there’s probably one or two of every sort. But on the whole, it’d do us well, I think, to remember that feeling disturbed and expressing the disturbance is a necessary aspect of our human condition.
Which might not be ideal, but it’s real.
Yes, of course we must remember to breathe, to recentre ourselves and return to solid ground. That’s how we come back into balance.
But balance itself is exactly that – it’s a state that is re-found, over and over. Balance isn’t static. Nothing is. Stasis is death, is nothingness, is not the same as balance.
Balance – mental and physical – is dynamic. It’s the non-stop shifting between one pole and the other, and sometimes these poles are close together and at other times they’re miles apart. While they’re closer we might feel a deeper, easier, peace of mind. But in times of heightened stress they’re necessarily far and wide.
We’re designed this way to survive.
Way back when in the state of nature, when dangers were somewhat graver than a rumbling inbox, our ancestors required the jolt of cortisol and adrenaline to get up and run or fight. In our asphalt, pillowed, shrink-wrapped existence today we rarely encounter the same kind of stressors, but the same old limbic system in charge of brain-chemical-dispatch doesn’t know things are different. So, while the stressors might have lessened, the feelings of stress remain the same.
And although we can’t, for the most part, run it off or fight it out our systems, occasionally we do need to rage, need to shout, need to let it out.
These fiery drives we experience, that are just as real and valid as their placid and peaceful counterparts, sometimes just need to burn until they’re out.
Sometimes meditation or yoga or Tai Chi or CBT doesn’t cut the mustard. Sometimes we need to scream, to punch a cushion, to express our stress or anger in all its scorching truth.
Otherwise what are we? Machines?
If we need to moan or rage or rant and rave, then we must do it. It doesn’t make us imbalanced or unhinged or unconscious or unenlightened. But not doing so might.
Not doing so would be to suppress what’s real and to live in denial instead.
Of course, it’s not optimal to exist in a state of tension or rant’n’raving for long, but as long as you’re not harming yourself or others while you express the stress and let it vent, then that is exactly what must be done.
I suggest finding someone who has the skill of selflessness to simply let you go through it without imposing their own discomfort or neuroses or needs on proceedings. Someone who won’t necessarily tell you to calm down and get a grip, but someone who’ll just sit and listen. Such people are hard to find and it’s why the talking therapies can be so healing.
Feeling stressed and expressing it doesn’t make you imbalanced. It doesn’t make you a failure or a hypocrite, but I think we might think it does. Think of a piano keyboard. Yes, most pieces are composed of the middle octaves, but sometimes a fiery high note or a low-down dirty grumble has its place, and quite right too, why else would they exist?
If you’re angry, feel it, if you’re stressed or unhappy, the same. Try not to fly right off the edge and go all nutty for long, if you can help it, that is. And even if you do, that’s ok too, as long as no one comes to harm, you can correct things as you go. Isn’t this what human life is – a spiral of trial and error as we learn, develop and grow, inevitably falling out of balance before coming back in again as we go? Because balance, equanimity, living well, are measured over the longer term, not just the here and now.
But right here and now I wish you much love and a balanced, beautiful week until next we speak and I’m off to fish my iPhone out the toilet.
And if you fancy a bit more of all this then I think I’ll be joining Danny on his livestream on Thursday evening at 10pm again but check Thedannybucklershow on Instagram this week for details.