I stood in front of the mirror, looked at my face and quietly muttered, “I’m mel-l-l-lting!” in the voice of the Wicked Witch of the West. Jowls hung where there used to be a strong jaw, and my eyes were shaped differently due to the lovely drooping of my turncoat eyelids. I thought of that children’s song –
“Do your ears hang low/Do they wobble to and fro/can you tie ’em in a knot, can you tie ’em in a bow . . .”
Too much of me was hanging low. The rest of the day I was physically exhausted, and there’s a good reason for that.
Judith Orloff, M.D., says that emotions trigger biological reactions that shape our health as distinctly as exercise. Any reaction can make or break our sense of well-being.
On this particular morning, I told myself that I was aging. I felt vulnerable, fearful, and my body reacted accordingly. The amygdala, our brain’s emotional center, went on high alert as it does each time it senses a potential threat.
In this case, it was sagging stuff and the onset of aging — not exactly a man with a gun, but my body reacted as if it were. Most of the stress chemicals we release by our thoughts are excessive in reaction to the reality in front of us.
My emotional stress, in that moment, was causing physical degeneration . . . the very thing I feared.
For example, an ambulance just flew by my office, and my heart started pounding. I immediately went through the checklist of everybody I love and where they are at this very moment. It’s a reaction I have to an old story mom told me about a woman who heard a siren, saw an accident, and didn’t know her daughter was in the car that she passed by. I’m not blaming my mother – we all have those fearful stories.
So, we need to calm down . . .
When we learn to change our emotional reaction to any situation, we change our biological reaction as well.
Sounds easy, but for me, it isn’t. I’m the freak in traffic pounding my hand on the steering wheel because a car in front of me applied their brakes at a green light just in case the light turned red. My husband won’t even allow me in a grocery store if it’s crowded, and I seem to be the only one running the race of having to get to the restaurant door before anybody else.
So here’s some tips that I’m going to use to calm myself –
Just know this . . .
Our thoughts matter.
The stories we tell ourselves could be destroying our physical well-being.
If we’re trying to eat well, and/or exercise, we should also take time to work on our thoughts just as diligently.
Check in with me in six months. I might just be lightly hitting my steering wheel due to the slow driver in front of me.
Every improvement counts.