(This post was written last year)
A month ago I was coming back from a camping trip, and we blew a tire on Highway 401. Now, I am absolutely terrified of cars, and highways, so this was a traumatic episode for me – I suddenly had to remember all of those lovely hippie things like finding your centre, breathing, not clenching my neck and shoulders as my body trying to curl up into itself with absolute horror.
After reversing the van dreadfully illegally into a rest stop, we eventually found a tow truck and ended up at an auto shop in Napanee. (Rankins Towing – they were amazing!) As one of the mechanics and my friend took off to Canadian Tire to find a new wheel so that we could eventually make it home to Toronto, I realized that I absolutely did not want to get into a car again immediately. I happened to have noticed a breathtaking antique Pontiac in the parking lot, so I decided to hang around the lot to take photos. This was one of the smarter things that I’ve ever done for myself.
Instead of rushing around and being in the way, I was able to completely ground myself in visual art, which is like Valium for me. Losing myself in shape and colour and texture enabled me to relax my body and mind to shake off the stress from an hour ago. I was able to do something for myself, feeling productive, but also staying out of everyone’s way so they could do their jobs instead of dealing with a clingy little frightened girl.
I was actually surprised when they came back – I thought perhaps 10 minutes had gone by, but I had been concentrating intently for at least half an hour. We got back on the road, and I was relaxed enough to chat merrily with my friend and try to take his mind off what had just happened so that we could concentrate on more important things like finding a place to have dinner.
Life Lessons / Reminders:
When you’re in a time of extreme stress, if at all possible, take that important two minutes to stop everything and think about what you need right now.
If you cannot help, get out of the way. Lurking around is not productive.
Whatever keeps you calm, whatever keeps the anxiety at bay, try and do that even if only for a few moments. If that is impossible, even just thinking about doing it a few hours from now will calm you down. Put yourself in that headspace.
Doing something, doing anything, will give you focus and purpose, redirecting your mind. If left alone, your mind will dwell on the stress, will replay the bad moments, and will make everything much worse. Do not leave your mind to its own devices. Control your mind – keep it as busy as possible, especially when something stressful has just occurred. Write, doodle, make a list, play a game on your phone. Distract, control, redirect.
Dinner is always the most important thing!