“The weakest step toward the top of the hill, toward sunrise, toward hope, is stronger than the fiercest storm.”
Joseph M. Marshall III, author of Keep Going: The Art of Perseverence
For the past two and a half years, my stress score has exceeded 300 for any given 12-month period.
If you would like to know what your stress score is, just read the companion article below. You’ll find the entire Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale there, which tracks 43 major life events.
It’s really important to know what your stress score is, given that there is a +0.0118 correlation between your stress score and illness.
In addition to understanding the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, I have also seen for myself the results of live blood cell analysis, witnessing first hand how stress literally changes you at a cellular level on a virtually immediate basis. Plus, I have spent years reading adrenal stress tests. I have literally never had a new client who was in stage 0 of adrenal stress. Not to mention the fact that I have spent years studying body metabolism and counseling clients as a Schwarzbein practitioner, helping other people understand how to improve their metabolism by healing their adrenal gland function.
If there is anybody who understands how stress affects the body, it’s me. So when I began to comprehend the enormity of the stress I was under, I knew I had to make more than the usual efforts.
As a result of these extra efforts, I have stayed basically healthy despite intermittent periods of moderate to severe depression, which felt unavoidable. Sometimes you get into the “now” and what you feel at any given moment is extreme grief, sorrow and pain. Many cases of depression are simply the pressure of change. When we take it for what it’s worth, the entire experience of depression can bless us with great depth if we have the strength to be present with what is happening. That’s what I love about Johnny Cash – you can hear his entire life experience in his voice. No one could ever accuse him of being a lightweight, of not comprehending what life is all about or of not having compassion for other people.
Here are a few of the things I have done in the past 2 1/2 years.
I set up a weekly schedule so that I did at least one major thing every day to lower my stress level. These daily activities included yoga, tai chi, qi gong and visiting the Zen Center for meditation. The de-stressing forms of exercise have a huge effect on the body at the cellular level. They lower adrenalin, the fight or flight hormone, increase oxygen uptake at the cellular level, raise serotonin, heal your metabolism, bring your brain into an alpha state where you can relax and give you a great workout at the same time. Countless research studies prove that meditation alleviates depression and anxiety. I noticed that the regular attendees at the Zen Center also had important reasons for being there other than their own spiritual growth.
I learned the tai chi sequence for managing conflict – step out of the way, ward off or what I call “refer to another department,” block or what I call “set extreme boundaries,” hit, then maim, then kill. My teacher, Jeff Cook, has taught tai chi for 25 years. Nobody ever teaches women how to fight. We don’t grow up – usually – getting into fist fights, and as a result we seldom learn how to manage conflict. Because of studying tai chi with Jeff, I learned how to fight and how to win without fighting. You can find Jeff at www.roswellbudokan.com.
I worked on and off with a great therapist, Becky Bergert of New Dawn Counseling in Kennesaw, 770-429-4988. Becky points out that many spiritual people make the mistake of thinking that because they are spiritual that they won’t go through the same emotions as everybody else. As a medical doctor friend of mine, Dr. Edward Garbacz, M.D., used to say, there are three unavoidable issues – death, taxes and emotions. Ironically, Dr. Garbacz was the one person who years ago convinced me to do less. Now Dr. Garbacz is dead and gone from pancreatic cancer.
I attended church regularly, Mt. Paran Church of God, www.mtparan.com , and if I was out of town, I went to church in another city, including Christ Church in Savannah www.christchurchsavannah.org and the Unity Church in Blairsville www.unitychurchofthemountains.com. Dr. David Cooper, the senior minister at Mt. Paran Church, is so good I usually bring my journal to take notes on his sermons.
I got craniosacral therapy every week with Shyamala Strack, 404-325-3339. Cranio is a gentle hands-on healing technique beneficial for alleviating trauma, migraines, depression, neck and back pain and fibromyalgia. It is one of the best treatments for head injuries.
I continued to eat well, take supplements, including amino acids and supplements for my brain when necessary. Many people turn to comfort food during times of stress, but if you eat well, you can actually have more energy and stamina and you won’t fall prey to food, drugs or alcohol. Many people are not aware that about 90 percent of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, so eating well can make a huge difference in your brain chemistry. You can easily figure out with lab tests exactly what your mind and body are missing and these natural solutions are far more effective than any psychiatric medications, in my opinion. My family of origin is very medically oriented, so they continue to recommend that I take anti-depressants. However, because I really understand what these drugs due to your brain, I choose not to follow their advice. Probably the best resource for understanding why it’s better not to take antidepressants to begin with is www.breggin.com, the website of a Harvard-educated, 35-year experienced medical doctor and author of numerous books and scientific papers about the dangers of psychiatric medication.
I did a scientific lab test of my adrenals through www.metametrix.com so I would know exactly where I stood, stress-wise. Even if you know you are under stress, having the left brain information about exactly which stage you are at is very important. Initially when you are just stressed for a brief period of time, you can over produce cortisol. As stress continues, you may go into under producing cortisol and different remedies are needed. Many people who feel depressed are actually in advanced stages of adrenal stress.
I took days off at a time to rest and recover, since resting is literally the fastest, cheapest way to heal your adrenal glands. My hammock on my porch is my favorite spot in the universe. The more stress you are under, the more time you need to spend resting. I spent a lot of time in my hammock staring up at the trees doing nothing.
I signed up for my sixth yoga teacher training with Lillah Schwarz at Lighten Up Yoga in Asheville, www.lightenupyoga.com . Although I definitely already know how to teach triangle pose, I also knew that practicing hours and hours of extra yoga every week and in regular weekend seminars would go a long way towards releasing the stress in my body. Every three-day weekend in my yoga training, I experience major healing. I can arrive in mental or physical pain and leave feeling happy and relaxed.
I completely changed my home environment with classical Feng shui under the guidance of Rochel Parker, 770-287-9114, and my gardener, Gabe Horrisberger, 404-906-6299, and my amazing painter, Dan Stone, 404-539-0391. Your environment is the most powerful factor influencing your well-being. It’s not just the feel of a place, it’s the ecology of it. I have worked with Rochel on my home since 2007, but consulted with her again as I was going through all my changes. I probably gave away at least 60 percent of the items in my home as a means of releasing old energy. Nothing keeps you in old energy like clutter and personal items you no longer need or use. This included at least 1/3 of my jewelry (even before a burglary this year that alleviated a large portion of what I hadn’t already given away), huge antique rugs from my grandmother, old clothes and furniture. I undertook a complete renovation of my studio where I work and gave away at least probably 2/3 of my old books and manuals. I figured that if I didn’t know all that information by now, it was too late. I also dealt with undesirable elements including a broken hot tub, a ceiling that had been previously repaired with duct tape, bats, mold and a leaky roof.
I talked to my angels regularly. I have kept a journal since I was at least 17 years old, so when I channel my angels, I write down what they say to me. That way I can go back and re-read their counsel. I have a list of my angels in my journal, so when I would listen, I would tune in and figure out which one was talking to me. You can see photographs of angels around my home in the photo section of my blog, www.catherinecarrigan.com. Just click on My Photos at the top of the blog.
I did countless healings on myself. When my emotions would come up, I would use kinesiology and do quantum healings on myself, or I would play the Transformation Game, a spiritual board game created by two ladies from Findhorn, Scotland. You can find the Transformation Game on www.amazon.com. It’s a graceful and insightful way to clear issues either by yourself or with a small group of people.
I took flower essences, most especially those made by Don Dennis of www.healingorchids.com. I probably took Positive Outcome, an essence to help you maintain undeterred optimism, for at least 17 months, which is the equivalent of several lifetimes in flower essence healing.
I asked my friends John Tamiazzo, email@example.com, an astrologer of some 35 years experience with a Ph.D. in psychology, and Bob Harder, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Sara Harder, email@example.com, for periodic readings to help me put things into context. After my initial OMG response, John explained that what was happening to me occurred only once every 88 years. John told that the events were so huge I couldn’t help but change. Bob explained other major shifts were so big they happen only once every four lifetimes. I was obviously clearing major karma, and all at one time. Sara says that when you are going through hell, just keep going.
I turned to my hobbies, which include beading and knitting. I made major works of art, which benefited all of my friends and the dear people who supported me during my changes. I mastered new techniques and took my craft to a whole new level. I have several projects going all at once – two shawls, loads of earrings, a scarf. I made scarves for all the ladies in my yoga teacher training, a woman whose home had burned down as well as my friends and clients. A boutique in Roswell, The Elegant Attic, www.elegantattic.com, took note and started selling my crafts.
I spoke regularly to my long-term coach Sue Maes of Canada, www.suemaes.com. I am always giving Sue tons of credit for her deep levels of insight.
I started my blog, www.catherinecarrigan.com, as a means of beginning to talk about what I am really thinking about and as a vehicle for photographs of all the true beauty in my life, including my garden and my orchids.
Of course, it helps that when I started on this particular turn in my life’s journey, I was in stage zero of adrenal stress to begin with.
We never know what is coming next, so the best course is to take care of yourself and build your personal resources – physically, mentally and spiritually. Just like we save money for a rainy day, we can build our personal qi, knowing that it will be put to good use in the long run.
It really isn’t the optimal time to read the instruction manual when you are on the way over the edge of a waterfall. I do realize that many people wait until this point, however.
Where Are You On The Stress Scale?
The Holmes and Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale
Death of spouse
Death of close family member
Personal injury or illness
Fired at work
Change in health of family member
Gain of new family member
Change in financial state
Death of close friend
Change to a different line of work
Change in number of arguments with spouse
A large mortgage or loan
Foreclosure of mortgage or loan
Change in responsibilities at work
Son or daughter leaving home
Trouble with in-laws
Outstanding personal achievement
Spouse begins or stops work
Begin or end school/college
Change in living conditions
Revision of personal habits
Trouble with boss
Change in work hours or conditions
Change in residence
Change in school/college
Change in recreation
Change in church activities
Change in social activities
A moderate loan or mortgage
Change in sleeping habits
Change in number of family get-togethers
Change in eating habits
Minor violations of the law
Note: If you experienced the same event more than once, then to gain a more accurate total, add the score again for each extra occurrence of the event.
You have a high or very high risk of becoming ill in the near future.
You have a moderate to high chance of becoming ill in the near future.
You have only a low to moderate chance of becoming ill in the near future.
This table is taken from “The Social Readjustment Rating Scale”, Thomas H. Holmes and Richard H. Rahe, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, Volume 11, Issue 2, August 1967, Pages 213-218, Copyright © 1967 Published by Elsevier Science Inc.
Sometimes it is very helpful to have a left-brain understanding of what you are actually processing. You can use this scale also to understand your friends and loved ones.
If you are under more stress that means you will need to take even better care of yourself. As we say in my yoga class, thank God for yoga! I would also thank God for qi gong, meditation, tai chi, my hammock, my dog Belle and days off to rest.