By Kathleen Aharoni
Last summer, my love and I canoed the Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. It was beyond exquisite. The trip was truly life-altering, though not for the reasons you might assume, like the beauty, serenity, accomplishment, the unplugged, the man vs. nature.
My life changed last summer because I experienced stress that threatened to ruin my trip, my relationship and my health. The silver lining, though, was that in choosing to be witness to my self and my stressful internal chatter, I discovered the instantaneous, cheap (as in free), miraculous cure to stress.
I know, this discovery is huge. Do you want to know the antidote?
S-t-r-e-s-s. Yes, the cure to stress is stress. I’ll explain.
The outfitter that we rented our canoe from gave us a mylar, rather than aluminum, canoe. He explained that the mylar canoe, which weighed 40 pounds, would be easier to carry on portages. Aluminum canoes weigh 80 pounds. Good news, yes? He also explained that mylar canoes are less stable and rip more easily—not such good news.
You see, years ago on a much shorter canoe trip on a hilariously shallow and obstacle-filled river in Michigan, our canoe tipped—the blame for this is still being argued—and all our belongings fell into this knee-deep river. I cracked up. My partner, mortified, fumed. Never in his years of canoeing!
I dreaded repeating another capsizing and reprimanding, so I said I’d prefer the aluminum canoe. Peace of mind is a priority for me. My preference was ignored.
So, there we were on day two in an unstable, vulnerable canoe on vast and stormy waters. Did I mention that we saw no other humans, had no way to communicate (no satellite radio, not even flares) and had traveled the same path back and forth three times attempting to find our route? I was also paddling in the front of the canoe, so I was able to see and feel every frigid whitecap that threatened our stability.
My internal dialogue went like this: OK, so if we capsize I have to either try to gather our gear and trust that my partner can stay afloat, or I have to attempt to reach him and let what sinks be gone. How the heck does one right a capsized canoe in rough, cold water when you can’t stand? Let’s say we right the canoe; how, then, do we climb back in it? Wow, what does it say about me if I go for the gear and not my love? What does it say about my trust in my love if I go for him and not the gear? Ugh. I’m not enjoying this conversation. Is this really what I choose for my vacation—fear, frustration, anger and the beginnings of shoulder ache?
Here comes the cure…
In that moment of asking “What do I choose for my vacation?” I stopped focusing on the stress—fear, frustration, anger and ache—and instead began to stress (focus on) my choice to enjoy, be in harmony with my love and nature and trust that all is well—a micro-millimeter attention shift of gargantuan size.
As soon as I stressed my choosing for all-good, I was in joyous cahoots with the waves that were tossing me with good-natured (no pun intended) teasing and delight. I whooped and giggled and became one with my beloved nature. I was home, carefree and giddy.
The four-night trip, even with its high winds, storms and tricky navigation, was blissful. And I now have the cure to that energy draining, gut destroying, illness producing, relationship annihilating bugger, stress.
Remember: The cure to stress is to shift the stress.
Here are some tips:
- Wake up to the fact that you are stressed (feeling tension, disruption, distress or strain—mental, physical and/or emotional).
- Ask yourself questions about what is bothering you and answer them.
- Notice when your questions are sourced from fear and when they are rooted in your love and belief in your well-being. I particularly love the question that originates with The Mary Group (themarygroup.com): Is this__________ (fill in the blank) encouraging, enhancing, loving and supporting my forward movement? If your answer is yes, then put your stress—emphasis, focus, choosing, love, caring—there.
- Imagine being enveloped by loving caring. Imagine being enveloped by fearful caring. Which allows you to feel you more clearly, lovingly and peacefully? Live in what feels best.
- Choose now and again and more what is loving, nurturing, growth-enhancing, life-affirming and expanding for you. You will attract people, events and opportunities to you that support your good feelings and choosings.
- Be in the now. Focus your choices to make each moment rich, beautiful and whole. By committing to the beauty of each moment, there will be no place within you for fear, which aligns itself to the unknown and generates stress to lodge itself.
- Stress your joy.
Now that’s stress that I can thrive with.