emotional awareness

Staying calm(when raised to be anxious)

Stressful Times

I am feeling more anxious than the past few weeks this week.  I could feel it in my stomach, in my shoulders, and in the way I am more over-functioning than usual.  As Korea’s COVID situation becomes worse and China still yet to open its borders to us,  I am stuck in limbo in a local hotel on Jeju island.

When China’s border was clearly closed to all but the most politically or economically connected elites, I was quite calm. My family took it with stride.  When there is no hope in sight, there is at least the certainty of impossibility.  So we settle into our limbo state with tranquility that comes from resignation.   Now China has begun to open its border and our visa approval has started to arrive one small step at a time.  The tension all of sudden becomes more palpable.

Is sadness nurtured or pre-programmed?

We might prefer the answer to our emotional pain to come from one or the other listed above. One might seem more acceptable to ourselves than others. In reality, it is never easy to say how much each of those factors is directly responsible for our pain.

We might have been born completely happy but jolted out of it by our experiences. Or for some of us, there is no choice but to be anxious sometimes despite even an idyllic childhood. Often it is a mixture of both since no one can profess to possess the perfect genome or living environment. The percentage of the mix is an eternal mystery. The battle, or rather collaboration, between nature and nurture is unpredictable and fascinating. In my profession, there is an ongoing debate about the effectiveness of talk therapy vs. chemical(drug) treatment. More often than not, it is more about proving the debater’s self-importance. The prescription-pad-holding doctors want to dismiss the talking therapists for wasting their patients’ time, while the therapist might accuse the doctor of drugging their client unnecessarily. Each person is a unique combination of genetic and environmental influences. In the end, some patients benefit from one, while others benefit from the other, many both or in some unfortunate cases, none.

Humans are a group of fascinating creatures. We inherited a myriad combinations of functionalities from our parents, who in turn from their parents, so on and so forth. We have no control over the fact we will probably have a certain shape of noses or colored hair. We can modify the surface on a temporary basis or even use drastic measures such as plastic surgery. Either cannot change what is underneath. We cannot change the fact certain parts of our organs are prone to disease or being emotionally prone to depression. We can work with it by not adding more stress to the vulnerable parts. Either it is to exercise to avoid fat buildup on our arteries, avoid a stressful situation, or increase our daily sunshine exposure and friend conversations, we can collaborate with our body to ensure a more comfortable and long-lasting existence as this human organism.

I heard a great analogy once about how we bear with stress. We are like a balloon. Once we are filled with air to the max, the least strong part of the balloon will burst. A similar strategy could work for humans. We are all susceptible to physical, emotional, or relationship issues. All of those can affect our overall health and longevity. The treatment can vary from chemical, emotional, cognitive, verbal, physical, etc.. It is important that we recognize what and how we are without any shame. The only danger, and maybe shame, comes from not allowing ourselves to accept the natural complexities our mind, body, and spirit can come in. Once we are open to all the possible combinations we are born with, we are also more creative in discovering our relief. It can be medicine or it can simply be some quality company. It can be exercise or it might take a special diet. Understanding ourselves will take time. It is perhaps the most important part of a lifelong journey. It takes studying ourselves and getting help from others.

So whether your sadness comes from scars of life experiences or just has a chemical disposition to emotional discomfort, the root cause might never be 100% accurately determined. The research into ourselves is continuously refined. In the meanwhile, we do not have to wait for the “ultimate answer” to heal. Finding the best way to take care of ourselves, whatever the approach or angle might be, is the only way to focus on the moment and looking forward. We can consult with experts, coaches, or friends. In the end, it is our own ability to listen to ourselves that will allow our to synthesize the best “medicine” for our life.

Being human is being vulnerable. We are born to die eventually. And death is the ultimate vulnerability. How we accept and live with that ever-present eventuality every day demonstrates our true strength.

How to handle emotional triggers

Emotional Trigger Defined

        The word trigger implies a change or an action is about to take place as a result of a stimulus. It could be the physical trigger on a weapon, or a mechanism that creates the momentum for another action, or the memory and experience of something bring about a dramatic response. The following is a brief example, and an exercise in fiction writing for me.

“Hey, looks like you are Jack’s new neighbor?”

She didn’t hear him through the headphones. She was still strained by the physical exertion from her 10-mile run. As she turned off the music, she tried to make out what the guy was saying. He was standing in the open doorway across from her apartment extending his right hand.