This week I want to chat about boundaries. It has been a rather difficult few weeks for me personally. And I know I am not alone. Many of you have spoken to me about the stress you have been feeling lately.
Boundaries & Stress
How do we recognise when we need to set better boundaries? For me, it appears as a physiological stress response. Initially I didn’t really notice. I found myself getting easily irritated. Small tasks all began to mount up. Gradually I noticed I was holding back tears. My body was in a full stress response. And it had crept up on me. Sound familiar?
I don’t usually live with anxiety. For me it was always depression. The black dog would rear its head from time to time. I am pretty good at spotting those signs. So when anxiety came calling it threw me a curve ball.
I found that I was second guessing myself. My confidence was dwindling. I was making excuses to avoid being in social situations. And when I was asked to perform a simple task by a work colleague I lost the plot. I reacted like a scared child. There was a lump in my throat. I wanted to cry. All because I had been asked to welcome people into an event. I just couldn’t do it.
I felt stupid. What was wrong with me? The next morning I sat and wept into my breakfast cereal. I couldn’t hold the tears back any longer. The tears were needed. It released the pent up emotion. And I started to feel a little more balanced.
Physiology of Stress
When we are in a stress response our body goes into fight, flight or freeze. Normally this should only happen when we are in danger. A life threatening event would spark this natural reaction. It would help us to freeze and hide, or stand and fight. It helps us to run away from danger. The stress response is a natural and instinctive reaction to danger.
What is not natural is staying in this survival mode. But that is what was happening to me. And I bet if you identify with my story so far, it is happening to you. My body was experiencing a prolonged stress response.
Adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormones, were flooding my body. The blood was being diverted away from my rational brain into the primitive survival area. I felt fuzzy headed. My heart was pounding as the blood pumped to my muscles preparing me to run. I noticed pain in my joints as I was so tense. Coiled like a spring waiting to go off.
All this was making me feel anxious. I felt like I had drank too much coffee. My hands were shaking. And my breathing was shallow. Even when I tried to meditate I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.
I noticed that I was constantly hunched. Trying to make myself small. Hiding away. Needing to be left alone so I felt safe. The smallest task felt impossible. I felt useless.
Thankfully I remembered reading Amy Cuddy’s Presence. In that book she talks about using your posture to fool your brain. By standing up tall and rolling your shoulders back you feel more confident. Smiling helps to turn off the fear response. I felt a bit daft but I did it. And it worked – a bit.
Next I tried meditation again. I do it every day so I really leaned into it. Using my journal, I wrote down all the nonsense in my head. Seeing it on paper really helped.
Then I was working on a project for Rocks n Rituals and the coach talked about tapping. I’ve heard of it before but never really got into it. She had us tap gently on our bodies in certain locations and breathe deeply. And it was like a magic switch. I felt the stress response stop. My breathing deepened and for the first time in weeks I felt relaxed.
I know that the tapping caused a physiological response in my body. Much like Qi Gong does, and Reiki. The combination of the three things, along with meditation and journalling has set me back on track.
What caused it?
I came to realise in that moment of clarity that I had simply taken on far too much. Over the last year I have had several major life stressors. There was the long running saga of my name being tied to my previous matrimonial home. That finally got resolved early this year, after a stressful few months trying to sort it out. And 5 years after the divorce!
Then we had to move out of our rented home and move into a caravan for a couple of weeks. The completion date on our house purchase didn’t quite line up with our landlord’s need for us to vacate. During this time my mum had a fall and ended up in hospital. There I was, living out of a suitcase, all my belongings in storage and running daily to the hospital. And I was trying to still run my business and volunteer with St John.
Mum ended up needing longer term help. We moved into our new home. I had to take on a little extra work to help pay some extra bills. And I had more and more responsibilities being added to my St John plate. There was less and less time for me. I hadn’t had a day off for so long I couldn’t remember when it was.
The soggy cereal day when I wept into my cheerios was the final straw. I realised I had to set some stuff down. It was time to put some boundaries in place.
Boundaries – setting stuff down
Firstly I asked for some help with my caring responsibilities. I can’t always be available for appointments and hospital runs. It was time for others to step in and help. So I asked and it got sorted. I am still learning not to feel guilty about this. It is a work in progress.
Secondly I emailed my managers at St John and told them I needed some time out. After all this is a voluntary role. Much as I love it, I need to step back. And I have, for the moment. Time to recharge my very exhausted batteries. I realised that if I didn’t, I may end up making a massive mistake. And that could be a life or death issue for someone.
Thirdly I took a look at where else I was spending my time and energy. I began to streamline things. Looked at the services I offer in Rocks n Rituals and remodelled them. You can see the changes and rebranding too on the website.
Time for a break
I have also decided to take a little break from the weekly musings for the month of October. During this time I will be reviewing how the content is delivered. And I would love to hear from you. Tell me if you enjoy the weekly content. Do you miss it when it’s not there? What would you like to see covered in the weekly musings when they return in November?
I hope my ramblings this week have helped you realise that you are not alone. Even Reiki Masters need some time out. We are human too! If you are living with anxiety or other mental health issues, please speak to someone. You don’t have to cope on your own.
Much love as always, Debi