Relaxation-based techniques for stress relief get at the symptoms of the stress but not the root cause. I’ve spent a whole lot of time trying to relax without actually changing my stress and yes, sometimes I fall asleep or get some respite but the stress is right back in my face the next time I’m triggered.
Nothing wrong with yoga or deep breathing or “healing music” (just three examples of many), but we need to go deeper. Not to twist the blade against a raw nerve, but to learn what’s at the root of the stressor and really do something about it.
Stuff that stresses me out
I’m stressed by incompetence. It blows my mind when a customer care representative can’t get away from the ‘in the box’ script and actually listen to my question. You’ve been there: “Mister Bee-o,” (for some reason, my last name always disappears at this point in the call, and nine times out of ten I’m talking to someone who’s learned English just to get a job talking with me), “I understand you are dissatisfied/concerned/whatever with this situation, and I want you to know I will do my best to help you. Would you mind if I placed you on a brief hold while I research the best answer for you?”
I know they’re following their rules. Why don’t those rules include “Mister Protzmann” instead of “Mister Bill?” Why do they even need to say that? And why do they think I’m calling in the first place? Do they think I didn’t try to find the answer online, just like they are about to try to do? If I could have found the answer, I wouldn’t be calling!!!!
This sort of thing triggers me. Severely.
I’m also triggered when a loved one goes momentarily missing. If my wife and I are out shopping and she goes off to look at makeup while I go to look at shoes, I’ll get anxious if I can’t locate her even a few minutes later. The longer it takes to find her, the more worried I become.
Neither of these examples are logical, but isn’t that the nature of stress? We get triggered by stuff because something benign causes us to re-associate with the trauma and BAM! — all the bad stuff comes rushing back in from the dark inner corners where we pushed it last time.
I’m a civilian. I volunteer with military folks and Veterans, some of whom have triggers that make my trauma seem stupid-silly by comparison. I thank God every day I haven’t had to do some of the stuff my colleagues have done in combat, and I honor the sacrifices they will make for the rest of their lives as a result.
In this blog, I want to hit some common ground about options we all have when triggered — from the hardened combat Veteran to the humble piano player — that can actually help get to the root of the stress and begin to transform it.