Last night, I started reading Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. Chapter one talks a lot about the stress cycle, and how to break it.
Now first of all, what causes our stress and why do we get stuck in a stress cycle? Well, I won't rehash the book, but for me, a big part of my personal stress has to do with social media, narrow-mindedness, and the general contentiousness of the world right now. (If you've read Spare the Rod, you know exactly what I'm talking about, since these things inspired the entire book.)
The first chapter of Burnout also helped me realize how and why I get stuck in this cycle and can't seem to make it stop. Again, I won't spoil the entire book for you, but the authors list several common ways to break the stress cycle. The number one way is exercise.
Now, don't get me wrong. I walk my dog every single day, rain, snow, or wind. (Okay. I occasionally cut the walk rather short if it's particularly windy out.) I've also started attending a Pure Barre class twice per week. But I didn't feel like this was really doing much to break my "stress cycle."
The authors list several other options in addition to exercise, including (but not limited to) deep breathing, laughter, and a big ol' cry. At this point, I was getting a bit frustrated. Believe me, I've tried these things. I'm not saying they're worthless, but nothing was really clicking for me. Then, I read this bit:
How Do You Know You've Completed the Cycle?
"It's like knowing when you're full after a meal, or like knowing you've had an orgasm. Your body tells you... You might experience it as a shift in mood or a mental state or physical tension, as you breathe more deeply and your thoughts relax... It's a gear shift — a slip of the chain to a smaller gear, and all of a sudden the wheels are spinning more freely. It's a relaxation in [your] muscles and deepening of [your] breath."
And just like that, it hit me when I feel this most: when I'm at a live sporting event, cheering on my team with a few thousand other rabid fans. For me, there is no emotional release like that last-minute goal that puts your team ahead, or the final buzzer and your team has won, and the entire arena is celebrating together. Being able to jump and scream and cheer and make as much noise as I can with nobody actually hearing me — this is what I have come to live for. Walking out of that stadium after the game feeling loose and happy and relaxed is the biggest break from stress EVER.
It turns out that I really do need live sports for my physical and emotional wellbeing.