Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bubbling Stress

I have often experienced anger bubbling up and through me. I've often allowed that to create and sustain stress. As I've been settling in and becoming more relaxed, I have less tension in my back and shoulders than I used to, I get emotional less often, and I have consistent energy.

What's most striking is my newfound ability to fend off stress or anger as it approaches boiling, threatening to shoot up my neck and right into a headache-inducing exclamation of its presence. It used to be that once it made it's ascent, exponentially gaining speed, I was helpless against it. I would get stressed, defensive, and/or emotional. I would feel offended, guilty, or bitter. And the whole time I would hate that I was feeling that way, which would only prolong the cycle.

There have been a few incidents recently where I previously would have unleashed my stress monster, but I evaded it. Driving is always rife with stressful potential, but I find myself less and less with the urge to succumb to road rage like I used to. Of course, being in a place where people give each other the finger less helps as well - it's useful to not fuel the fire - but it's mainly my ability to better control my stress.

The most recent incident was today at work. My landlord came in, angry that we had called the heating company to clean our air filters. The labor costs were higher than what he wanted to pay ($0) and he said that he could have done it just as easily. I explained to him, calmly, that I had spoken with the heating company and they said they were going to talk to him before they came out, since the account was in his name.

He didn't affirm or deny whether they called. Instead, my landlord asked me why we had needed to clean the air filters. Still calmly, I told him I had been having sneezing attacks every time the heater turned on because dust was coming out of the vents. His suggestion was that we should, instead of turning on the heat to get warm from the chilly air outside, open the windows to air out the office.

I took a breath. The monster was brewing in my gut, but I told him to sit back for a minute.

I reminded our landlord that outside was cold and the reason for the heat was to mitigate the effects of said weather. Our patients couldn't be expected to be freezing during a treatment where they need to sit still for 30 minutes. Flustered, he asked if I felt better, now that this expensive air filter service was completed. I told him that yes, I was sneezing noticeably less whenever we turned on the heat.

His response was that it was all in our heads, and the air filter being really dusty and dirty didn't acutally make a difference. He told me that the next time we needed to clean our air filters, he would come do it, not tell us when, and he was sure that we would never even notice that he changed it.

I looked at him without responding. My monster was anxious for a fight, but my head wasn't even interested. It was a surprising difference from what I had come to expect from myself. I focused on this fact, rather than the illogical man in front of me. My other head would have welcomed the monster as he knocked over everything on the shelves to make room for his fat little body. But this time, I just didn't feel like getting frustrated or emotional about something that wasn't worth my stress.

So, I just stared at him.

He pulled back and explained that he wasn't mocking me, but was simply frustrated that it cost so much when he could have done it for us for cheaper even though he didn't feel it needed to be done. I repeated that the heating company was supposed to call him first but they seemed to not have listened. I apologized for the confusion.

He finally realized I wasn't going to succumb to his anger and left.

Then, my monster, though disappointed it didn't get to play, simply abated and settled back into the recesses of wherever he dwells in my core. He still exists and is able to put up a fight, but I have a better relationship with him now that we've had this reality check.

It's a good feeling, to not feel out of control and sucked into an emotional whirlwind; to not feel put-upon by the external world. Even saying this evokes excitement that I really am taking control of myself and choosing how my world unfolds. So long, it's felt as though I've been saying the way I wanted things to be, but that reality wasn't actually happening in the world and I couldn't understand why.

The irony is that I don't understand what I've been doing wrong until I've come around the bend and start doing it right. I rarely know how to do it correctly beforehand, I just have to take the risk and follow my instincts, when they show.

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