Stress: What a Son of A Motherless Goat

I’m going to divide this post into titled sections to avoid people having to read content that is not relevant to them. However, I really needed to write all of this down, so I’m going to be long winded today.

Topic 1: Stress Itself

Stress is a primitive physiological and psychological reaction to a perceived threat or some kind. We, as animals, need stress to survive. We probably need it a little less in the 21st century because there are less immediate, nearby, threats to our lives than there were in the times of nomadic men or hunter-gatherers (lions, tigers and bears oh my) but nonetheless we need to learn from certain fears and expectations of danger so we can prevent death or harm to ourselves.

Some individuals take “necessary stress” to a whole new level and fear everything. Fear of getting emotionally hurt, fear of being alone, fear of trying something new, fear of failing, stress of too many hours at work, stress of relationships not going as planned, etc.

When we stress our body releases good and necessary hormones to do two things:

  1. Motivate us to act
  2. Protect our physiological systems during the action so we are able to perform well and not do damage

However, like all good things, they are only good in moderation. Epinephrine and norepinephrine released to motivate action raise blood pressure, increase heart rate, improve oxygenation in the lungs and increase alertness. Cortisol and glucocorticoids are anti-inflammatory and prevent damage to various systems but also increase available blood glucose and blood pressure.

Now, if we take this stress reaction and put it to good use, it’s very effective. Our bodies are smart and strong and can rebalance and bring us to homeostasis. However, if we abuse this system and feel stress constantly, problems can arise.

Topic 2: Possible Stressors

  1. Fears instilled in us by society, upbringing and how we let those values define our worth.

“I’ll never get married.”

“I’ll never be as successful as my parents.”

“I’ll never have children.”

“I’m never going to get promoted at my job.”

“They’re going to fire me.”

“I’m going to fail that test tomorrow.”

These types of stressors are… well, made up. Who says you HAVE to get married? Who says you HAVE to do well on an exam that we created for you by fallible and subjective individuals? Even if they do fire you, so the f*ck what? These are society-made fears and society is a man-made construct. If society doesn’t think you are good enough, that is one (or many opinions) that you can choose to accept to not accept.

Back in the day, you could have been shunned, burned at the stake, or left in the wilderness for not “fitting in” but lucky for you, the world has evolved enough that that is no longer a legitimate fear. Get over it and let your freak flag fly.

 

“Do whatever you feel in your heart to be right for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.”

-Eleanor Roosevelt

 

  1. Fears with a strong basis

“I don’t have any food or money and I’m starving.”

“I am lost in the wilderness without shelter.”

“A man with a knife is chasing me.”

“I am losing my memory, my sanity and I no longer understand what is real and what is not.”

“I am going into surgery/chemotherapy/etc. and I’m afraid of what will happen.”

I feel like these are pretty obvious. They relate to maintenance of life and there are legitimate dangers. These stressors are “secondary” to a primary problem. If you fix the primary problem, they should subside on their own.

Topic 3: Healthy Coping Strategies

  1. Change/Remove your expectations

If you have limited to no expectations, you will never be disappointed in the outcome of your situation. There are effective ways to do this that involve understanding what you have to offer the world and focusing on what you can actually do rather than what you cannot.

Every religion has one form of this or another but if you’d like to read about learning to know yourself I recommend the pdf called Five Ways to Know Yourself.

  1. Meditate
  2. Pray
  3. Breathe
  4. Exercise

You can strive to achieve something without expecting it to happen.

  1. Accept the stressor the way it is

Acceptance for what reality truly is very important. We must first accept the way thing are before we can work on changing them. We have to accept things with objective peacefulness.

Bad example: My situation is shitty and I hate it. I accept that.

Good example: My situation is challenging and painful. However, that’s just the way it is right now.

  1. Act

If you have it in your power and control to change something about your situation (always yourself, your actions, or your response to others’ actions), then by all means do it!

You cannot change others or the way the wind blows. Act on the parts that you can change and do not push for change in others.

Topic 4: Unhealthy Coping Strategies

  1. Eating

My personal favorite tied with Sex/Relationships.

You cannot fill your emptiness with food. You cannot distract yourself from your problems with food.

  1. Sex/Relationships

You cannot fill your emptiness with other people unless they are substantial to you. Meaningful connections are the only way you are going to feel full.

A serious clarification needed here though. Sex and relationships on their own are good. Dating or sleeping around is not innately bad. However, it is not a COPING MECHANISM. It is a fun and potentially worthwhile activity (if you’re doing it right).

  1. Drugs, Drinking, Tobacco

Temporary highs followed by longer and lower lows.

  1. Depression/Anxiety/Loneliness

This is when stress has reached the point that you are in a giant hole of stress, covered in stress dirt and being crawled on by stress worms. Get the f*!k out of the hole and pick a better strategy. If you need help please call a licensed and professional therapist, close family member or friend, or crisis hotline.

You can do other things. It’s hard but possible.

  1. Pity Parties/Whine Tastings

This is so addictive. You hang out and tell everyone how stressed you are repeatedly until everyone gets tired of your negativity and you’re forced to make a whole new guest list.

Pity Parties need expiration dates and times. If you want to have a pity party, invite your dog. They don’t mind coming. Cry it out. Get it out of your system. Commence at 11:00 and finish by noon. An hour is the maximum recommended amount of time.

Parties are not meant to go on for days, weeks or months. They burn people out.

Topic 5: Make a Plan

So, now you’ve got a lot of information, you’re stressed about something but you don’t know where to start.

Follow this foolproof model:

plan.png

Now, is any of this easy? Of course not. However, it’s necessary to overcome the stresses of our current world. Remove the things in your life that create unrealistic expectations. Insert attainable and achievable goals.

Last but not least I would like to add a note.

Happiness is most commonly achieved through redirecting your attention from your own ego and psyche to other people/animals/beings.

Volunteer, listen to a friend, don’t talk about yourself, don’t think about yourself, help others, learn things that can help you help others. The less you focus on yourself during times of stress, the easier it is to move past it.

Here is a good article on the Science of Happiness.

Sending light and love to each and every one of you.

Good luck!

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Happiness

What is happiness? Is it:

  • the absence of suffering
  • appreciation for what you have
  • appreciation for who you are surrounded with
  • hope
  • absence of conflict
  • feeling loved/appreciated by others

How does one define happiness? Without defining it, is it possible to have a plan as to how to obtain it or should it always happen organically? If it happens organically, does that mean it doesn’t require effort or does it only occur after applying effort to happiness-generating things?

So far I feel as though happiness is based on satisfaction with one’s present moment without regard to what may or may not come or what has already occurred.

 

Fun House Mirrors

Reality feels like a construct sometimes rather than a collection of objective details.

When I look in the mirror I see something different than the rest of the world sees as I believe many of us do. I am only consciously aware of the discrepancy at times when I look BACK to different moments and times while recalling how I feel now versus how I felt then.

I believe we are built to adapt and accommodate changes within our lives and bodies and some individuals just adapt or accommodate is less “realistic” ways than others.

My mood shifts, as someone that identifies on the bipolar spectrum, cause me to see the world through different “mood glasses” all the time.

When I am depressed, the sunshine mocks me as it glares meaninglessly, tauntingly reminding me that it won’t go away for at least however many more hours.

When I am high, the sun tingles my skin and feels life-changing. It seems like it is stimulating every sensation within my body and guiding me to every wonderful opportunity of the day.

My body is no different. When I feel thin (like when I’m dieting and have lost a few pounds), I feel sexy, tempting, and beautiful.

When I eat too much or wake up having gained a pound, I feel unattractive and undesirable. I feel like I can see these changes and they make so much of a difference that others react to them.

I felt this way at 150 lbs and I felt this way at 200 lbs.

Sometimes, it’s easier for us to assume our problems are superficial because the superficial is easier to change than what lies deep down.

On top of all of that, we bury our inner demons so far, that the superficial problems are the only things left visible and reachable without significant effort and regular work.

Rather than looking in the mirror and believing that your happiness will come from being more attractive, thinner, blonder perhaps you should ask yourself what’s underneath the tip of the iceberg that is causing all of these questions and doubts to present themselves.

5 things NOT TO DO on a first date: words of advice for the average heterosexual man

Image taken from: https://coffeemeetsbagel.com/blog/index.php/best-date-tips/4-major-mistakes-keep-going-past-first-date/ which also has some good tips!!

  1. Walk and/or catch a ride to the meeting place and ask your date to drive.
    • This looks so tacky and it makes you seem like you don’t have any of your shit together. If you really had to get a ride there or walk, don’t admit it. Figure out a different way home.
  2. Take her somewhere too pricey or beyond your
    • If you take her to that really expensive restaurant, will she be impressed, yes. What happens when the date doesn’t work out? You’re out a lot of money. What happens if the date does work out? You resent her a little because you can’t pay your rent this month and end up picking a stupid argument over nothing and invite her to McDonalds the next three dates.
    • Just be yourself. Don’t pick something too pricey. Which leads me to:
      • Don’t ask her to split the check with you.
        • I don’t care if it’s a “new age” where women are equals and blah blah blah. Argue with me later. Just expect to pay. If she offers that’s fine. Do not ask.
  3. Pick an activity that involves an excessive amount of noise (e.g. concerts)
    • First dates are for deciding if you like someone enough to see them again. There is no way to know this if you can’t hear a word they say.
  4. GET DRUNK
    • Do not get drunk on a first date. Just don’t do it. It makes a terrible impression. Unless you’re both heavy drinkers in which case, I guess you can bond over it.
  5. Over-commit
    • Don’t make a plan to do 4 things with her over the course of 6 hours. Plan for one good thing and if that thing goes well play the rest by ear. If you tell her that she is going to be there from 6 pm to 2 am and she’s decided she doesn’t like you at 9:30 pm, it’ll be miserable for both of you.

 

Ode to Scarlett

Beauty beyond belief

A body with curves paved with blood sweat and tears

Piercing emerald eyes and hair made from shades of soft golden brown

No one could touch her and no one could love her although many tried

Cloaked in burgundy cloth, she wandered the world waiting for a suitor whose love she could reciprocate

but alas there were none.

One day she passed a mirror.

She saw her reflection and realized her beauty had begun to fade and she no longer knew what she had to offer

for her heart was closed, patience thin and tongue sharp.

Unconditional love requires more than a pretty face

for when the lights go down we all look the same.

Dear Scarlett, let love into your soul and let go of the superficial excuses before your soul becomes too far tucked away to be found and caressed by those that truly want to witness and appreciate its beauty.

See the world for what it truly is. Treat it with equanimity.
It’s better to be ignored and happy than marveled at and miserable.

Viva Las Vegas

As I sit here in the living room of my mother and I’s hotel suite, I notice a feeling of desperation creeping up on me. I want attention. I want to be noticed. I want to be more than just another person sitting awake on a Monday night. I’m in Las Vegas: land of inhibition-less sinful pleasure and yet I cannot go and throw caution to the wind. I want to put in the work and practice the patience required to feel good intrinsically rather than enjoy short-lived externally-sourced pleasures.

I could go find someone to give me the attention I crave. It wouldn’t be difficult. I could easily be validated sexually, emotionally or any way I desire to be

…but in the morning I would wake up still feeling desperate for something of substance something pure and something that doesn’t vary with the waves of people coming in and out of the rotating door that has been my life up until now.

I want lasting peace and I’m willing to feel discomfort right now to get it. So, after eating some coconut and a protein bar (random scraps from the week’s purchases), I’m going to head to sleep. Tomorrow is a new day and I’m making strides to make it brighter than today and blinding compared to yesterday.

Goodnight.

In Vegas Today

The Convention

Gum

Tonight, I’m sitting here with my kitchen cleaned, homework finished, pets fed, dinner eaten, chewing gum. It’s my tenth piece in two hours. Two and a half hours ago I finished my dinner and began feeling the urge to binge.

Upon some reflecting and staring at my list of reasons NOT to binge plastered on the refrigerator, I realized that I wanted to binge because I felt I had failed and I felt lonely. Failure and loneliness seem to be my top two triggers for emotional eating.

What have I failed at you may ask? Well, I failed at another relationship that hadn’t even truly begun yet. A relationship that never was and a relationship that never will be.

How does our mind create experiences, hopes, dreams and aspirations so vivid that the loss of those possibilities causes us to mourn as if we truly lost someone dear to us? It was real to me. We would have been perfect. Everything would have worked in harmony. We would have moved back to the Midwest to be somewhere with seasons to celebrate the white winters with our two little girls and two little boys. I would have nagged him for being too impatient and he would have brushed it off with a joke that was bound to make me laugh and forget all about my complaint.

My life would have been full and complete just the way I’ve always pictured it.

It’s not real. It never happened. It’s not real. It never happened. I keep repeating to myself.

How can you lose something that was never yours? How can you lose something that never was?

And yet I grieve. I spend my time clinging and grasping to false realities and figments of my imagination and as they inevitably fade like the clouds to leave an empty unsatisfactory reality I struggle with.

Food can’t fill the imaginary void in my soul that used to be filled with fantasies disguised as precognition. It never was. It never would have been. It never will be.

So I chew my twelfth piece of gum to the sound of the washing machine waiting for the night to engulf the day, digest its challenges and bring me a fresh tomorrow with new precognition that is bound to pan out exactly the way I imagine.

The Cloth Monkey

maslow-pyramid
In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, physiology(food, water and originally sex) was on the bottom on the pyramid. It was believed that until we meet our basic animalistic physiological needs, we cannot nor do we have the drive to fulfill other needs (i.e. Safety, Love and Belonging, Esteem and Self-Actualization respectively). However, the argument of whether sex is a basic physiological need is debated among psychologists. Is it the sex itself and its promise for reproduction of the species, or the need for physical connection with other human beings?

Harry Frederick Harlow, an American psychologist, hypothesized in the twentieth century that contact comfort was extremely value to developing children. He had a wire monkey with food source and a cloth monkey with no food. The baby Rhesus monkeys spent a clear majority of their time clinging to the cloth monkey and the bare minimum amount of time feeding on the wire monkey. So, they met their physiological need for food and immediately afterwards found safety, comfort and belonging in the cloth mother.

Harlow's Wire vs. Cloth Mother

Freud believed that if we were not allowed to develop through the Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency and Genital periods properly and encouragingly, that we would have corresponding issues as adults. For example, someone that did not get their oral needs met as an infant, may have an eating disorder or smoking addition as an adult.
So, what is it about sex that made Maslow believe it to be a basic physiological need?

As an Evolutionary Psychologist myself, I’ve always believed sex to be a need because of reproductive drives that are innately within us as a species. I’ve believed it to be a major motivator for many of our choices. However, I find myself questioning it now.

Maybe our sexual urges are merely an extension of our need for contact comfort, safety, love and belonging. Maybe it contributes to of all three of Maslow’s first three tiers rather than only the first.

The next time you feel uncomfortable or down, try hugging someone just a few moments longer and notice your body’s emotional response. Notice how you feel before and after. There is a sense of calmness, belonging and safety that occurs after prolonged physical contact of any kind with another human being.

My hypothesis is this: Nymphomania or high sex drive comes from a place that longs for physical contact to satisfy the needs of safety, love and belonging.
Furthermore, I think that regularly having physical contact with other human beings can decrease sexual desire in individuals seeking validation from sexual activities.

As someone with an extremely high sex drive that has chosen to remove sex from my life temporarily, I am going to experiment with this on myself and maybe do some interviews with others that share my struggle. We shall see what comes of it!

As a good friend told me yesterday, “Look at your problem through the eyes of a child to discover what the true source of the problem is.”

So that’s just what I’ll do.

Penelope

Francesco Primaticcio 002.jpg
By Francesco Primaticcio – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, Link

Once upon a time there was a wife of a great explorer. As her husband left on a great voyage, she promised to wait for him. Years went by and soon the people of the town started to believe him to be dead. They urged her to remarry. The wife didn’t want to remarry. So, she promised the people of the town that she would consider a husband as soon as she finished a shroud she was sewing. All day long she would sew and all night long she would undo the sewing from that day. It had been twenty years since the husband had left and eventually the town caught on and she was asked to make a decision. The wife reluctantly agreed to an archery competition for her hand in marriage.

At the competition, a strange man in tattered clothing defeated all the others. Solemn and disappointed, the wife went to meet her new husband-to-be. The man was angry with her, scolding her for betraying her husband. The woman felt defensive and racked with guilt. Suddenly, the man unraveled his clothing and reviewed that he was her long-lost husband back from his voyage.

The man was King Odysseus and the woman, his wife, Penelope.

For me, this story is the perfect example of true love and patience. We could focus on the inequality of women and men during this time period but it’s really not what’s important. What’s important is that Penelope didn’t want to marry someone else and purposefully waited for the right man. The man that was worthy of her and the man that she wanted to belong with.

Patience is something that does not come easily for many. We would rather enjoy the immediate gratification than wait patiently for something better to come along. It is even harder to be patient when we are waiting for something that may or may not come along at all.

But what is supposed to set us apart from children is our increasingly developed prefrontal cortexes. We should be able to hold out for something better to come along rather than settling for what is currently available.

As a millennial, I feel that patience is becoming more and more scarce and that the existence and development of technology and social networking has made us a world of discontentment and impatience. This leads to unhappiness and suffering.

So, as the sun comes up this morning, I want to choose to be a Penelope. I want to choose to wait for the things that are worth waiting for rather than hopping from mediocre choice to mediocre choice. I am planting the seed of lasting gratification and I’m willing to wait twenty years to obtain it.

 

Impermanence

Nothing lasts. The only thing that’s constant in life is change. Our bodies change, our opinions change, our tastes in food, our favorite songs, our jobs, families, friends, everything changes.

Some changes are harder to accept than others. Evolution of relationships, for example, can be hard to accept. So what happens when a relationship has evolved to a point that it is no longer beneficial to one or both parties?

I have made a check-list today of things to go over when trying to assess whether a relationship just needs to be reassessed or whether it needs to be left.

  1. Are you being tolerant of the other person’s differences?
  2. Are you supporting the other person?
  3. Have you been open and honest with the other person about your feelings?
    1. If so, did they respond well or poorly?
  4. Is being around this person regularly hindering your spiritual, moral or intuitive progress in some way?
  5. Do you think the person is going to be able to be a good relationship-match (i.e. friend, significant other, family, etc.) for you at some point in the near future?
  6. Is being in a relationship with this person causing you or them suffering?

After asking these questions, if you feel that the relationship issues are a direct result of something you’re doing, then first remedy those things and see how the other person reacts. If you feel as though you’ve just both chosen different paths and there is no way to remedy the situation then the last thing I would ask is…

Are you willing to let go of the possibility that the relationship could end up working again in the future?

I assessed FIVE relationships today (names below were changed to protect anonymity). This is how it went…

Relationship 1: I have been very tolerant of Bob’s differences but I haven’t been the most supportive because supporting Bob is causing me suffering. I have been open and honest and he responded well. Being around him is not hindering my spiritual progress and I believe he could be a good friend in the future. As a result, I’ve decided to continue being open and honest and making my boundaries more clear with Bob to prevent my suffering as a result of my support.

Relationship 2: I haven’t been very tolerant of Suzie’s differences and as a result have not been very supportive of her. I have been open and honest but she did not respond well. Being around her occasionally hinders my spiritual progress and causes me suffering. I’m not sure if I could be her friend in the future. As a result, I’ve decided to attempt to be more tolerant and supportive of Suzie and see if she reacts differently to my actions.

I did the same with Relationships 3-5 as well. I found that only two of the five relationships were worth giving up. Most of the time, we should take the time to really assess why we’re isolating ourselves from others because many times we have more of an impact on the problems than we initially believe.

Family is the most difficult as many times we are not willing to burn those bridges in hopes that the relationship will eventually be healthier at some point in the future. Sometimes, we can let go and come back later on when we have a different view of them or they have a different view of us based on regular life experiences and lessons.

Regardless we should treat others and ourselves with loving kindness and friendship because it makes everyone involved feel better. Let love flow freely between you and others but set healthy boundaries with those than hinder your ability to love freely and kindly.