Know Thy Stressors

(Featured image source: Dictionary.com on Twitter)

Several times last month, I experienced sudden spikes in my blood pressure. I couldn’t quite get a handle on the cause as I was diligently taking my medications. Whenever this happens, my immediate reaction is to apply acupressure on my hands and feet. Somehow this helps.

I reviewed in my mind what I could have done to contribute to the spikes. True, I’ve been taking coffee, but I limit it to only one cup a day in the morning. Still, I told myself to go easy on the caffeine.

I spend a lot of time online because I review and edit academic manuscripts as a side hustle. While I try to avoid distressing posts about pandemic-related issues  and leaders I love to hate, I could not help checking out on what friends have been sharing on their Facebook pages. I’m a mindful follower of physical distancing, but social distancing is another matter.

It occurred to me that the ominous photo of a lighted candle against a black background had been passing through my News Feed a lot. This could only mean that someone I know or someone close to that person had passed on. In the last few weeks, it included several known personalities, a much-loved wellness coach, and a former work colleague. The depression was real.

During the long lockdown, taking online courses has been an enjoyable and fulfilling diversion for me. I have successfully completed courses offered on the Coursera platform by top US universities. My latest course, however, was not all fun. It was a two-month course, with several quizzes and peer-reviewed assignments. Prior to the exams, they would normally flash a message saying that only a small portion of test-takers pass the exam on first attempt. That was just a little too much for this senior learner.

Still, I was determined to complete the course. I opted to take it on audit mode (which saved me US$79) and didn’t bother applying for financial aid, even if a formal certificate would boost my credentials as an academic editor. The course was “Writing in the Sciences” by Stanford University. The exercises and the peer-reviewed assignments weren’t a walk in the park. I’m sure they have contributed to my anxiety—and the rising BP.

Promptly, I searched for other possible modalities to help calm the mind.  I went back to doing my qigong meditation exercises and this time, I listened to songs that are popularly believed to help keep the BP on an ideal level.  I’m glad that among those listed is my favorite “Watermark,” an instrumental number by Enya.

And then, there’s “Weightless” by Marconi Union. A study has shown that listening to this song resulted in a striking 65 percent reduction in participants’ overall anxiety, and a 35 percent reduction in their usual physiological resting rates.

I didn’t have to wait long. I’m now back to my 120/80 BP level.

Which tells me that running away from stress does not always cut it for anyone. Sometimes we have to face challenges head on  if we know that overcoming them will make us feel better and happier down the road. Back to that Stanford course, I managed to complete what was programmed to be a two-month offering in just about three weeks (luckily, without any need for retakes). Halfway into the course, I was able to apply a lot of the concepts taught in my editing work.

 It was all worth it!

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