“Hey babe, let’s relax together. You and me.”
These are the words my partner spoke to me after he learned about Fight or Flight responses in the body and what can happen when they become permanent assets in our lives.
Both of us experience anxiety, depression, as well as other physiological symptoms daily including body pains, head aches, and difficulty sleeping.
Today’s society is stressful. Our world is based around the capitalist idea of productivity and what we can produce. But this constant stress makes it harder to produce. My decreased focus, ability to deal with every day stress, and my heightened sensitivity to everything going on around me make it feel impossible sometimes to get through a 5 hour work shift without a breakdown or time machine, or to be able to write for more than 15 minutes straight without feeling like my surroundings are impeding upon me.
I have no idea how he get’s through 12+ hour shifts 6 days a week – maybe he has the same inner conflicts that I do. Maybe being busy helps to quiet the business in his mind. I don’t know, because by the time we get home both of us are so simultaneously wound up and drained that we eat dinner and watch netflix until we can’t keep our eyes open instead of talking about what in our day really got to us or how we got through it.
I, personally, have forgotten the notion of relaxed. I don’t know what it feels like to sit with myself without a to-do list, insecurities, a whirlwind of ideas and anxiety running through my head – even if I’m at a water spa for 3 hours detoxing my presence is always in my mind. I don’t know how to release the tension in my shoulders when for a few minutes I can manage to let go of all the noise in my head.
In my relationships, and really any good situation in my life I am so prepared for the shoe to drop that when I realize it won’t, I feel the nearly compulsive need to manifest it. I create situations and feelings around a one off anxiety and build them until I can’t function because that is more normal for me than just accepting that I don’t have to be on-guard for the bad. I know something terrible is going to happen, I know he doesn’t love me, and on and on.
So, this whole partnership relaxing thing was refreshing. To not be told to go it alone, but to recognize that it was something we both needed and that we could do it together.
Then today I got a text from him saying he missed me, and loved me. And when I was looking up Fight or Flight responses and he was watching youtube he stopped to tell me I’m wonderful, and he loves me, and that I’m good. Which made me suspicious.
“What’s with the pep talks?” I teasingly inquired. And he informed me that he intends to rewire my brain. That the trauma, difficulties, and stress has changed the way that I see and react to things, including myself, and that he’s taken it upon himself to tell me the basic, but meaningful things that I need to hear to believe the truth about myself; that I can relax, that I am a good person, that I do work hard, that I don’t have to be fighting, that he does love me, that there is nothing to worry about. And even though it’s only been a couple of days I can feel myself relaxing.
I could focus enough to write this entire article front to back in one go. I didn’t shut myself off when I felt like I wanted to talk about something. I made it back from my break at work without crying or giving into my instinct to run far away and abandon my responsibilities because it felt like too much.
I’m lucky. I got a really, tremendously wonderful human being as a partner. And I realize that not everyone has that in their life right now romantically. But I do believe that everyone has a support system, is part of a support system. Fight or Flight responses being stuck in “on” position is far from rare in our society, and I won’t get into it’s many hazards and the way it hurts us.
I will say, however, it is in your power to work together to relax. To tell the people you love that you love them, that they’re doing a good job, that they’re worthy, that they can try to relax because you too are going to try and relax. I bet you’ll even get the same reassurances in return from them.
It’s not as easy as doing a couple of breathing exercises and being fixed. It’s a long process to try and remedy what is now instinct. But it’s a lot less challenging with someone by your side, who see’s the good in you that you see too.
We’re all deserving of a break, especially from the expectations of our minds. You don’t need to fight or flight from taking a step back and a deep breath in.
Written by Forest Greenwell