Did you know that you were playing a game when you woke up this morning?
Believe it or not you were, and you still are. This game happens all day --everyday --and I call this the “Gotcha Game.”
It's pretty simple, and it's all about how we respond to stimuli, people and various situations that we encounter as we go about our daily lives. For example:
Did spilling your coffee this morning cause you to cuss? GOTCHA!
Did your co-worker say something fussy, and you rolled your eyes? GOTCHA!
Did you get angry sitting in standstill traffic? GOTCHA!
Did you respond poorly when your child asked you the same question for the 15th time? GOTCHA!
The list goes on and on and on, and it’s easy to see how we can get “Gotcha’d” many times in just one 24 hour period when we allow things, people and life in general to push our buttons, whether knowingly or unknowingly. --and each time we get “Gotcha’d” and allow our reactionary tendencies to flare, this exacerbates our internal stress levels, and takes away from our state of wellness.
Not only does letting the Gotcha Game get the best of us take a toll on our emotional and mental health, allowing the Gotcha Game to win also takes a toll on our physical bodies, as when our mind is stressed and frustrated, our body immediately follows suit.
When the body is stressed, our muscles naturally tense up, as muscle tension is a reflex reaction, and is our body’s way of guarding against injury and pain. --and with sudden onsets of stress, our muscles tense up all at once, only releasing their tension when the stress has passed. --but what if the stress never actually fully passes? If we are continually responding to life with a stressful mindset --all day, everyday-- this causes the muscles in the body to be in a more or less constant state of guardedness, and when muscles are taut and tense continually or multiple times a day, this triggers an overproduction of stress-hormones in the body, and leads to stress-related disorders.
As an example, both tension headaches and migraine headaches are associated with stress and chronic muscle tension in the area of the shoulders, neck and head. Musculoskeletal pain in the low back and upper extremities is also linked to stress, as well as a slew of issues involving the blood, brain, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, endocrine system, reproductive system, gastrointestinal system, and nervous system. Literally every part of us is ill-affected by stress --top to bottom-- due to muscle tension, heightened levels of stress-hormones that flood the body, glucose levels and blood pressure fluctuations that occur when we succumb to the grips of the Gotcha Game.
So how are you faring in the Gotcha Game? Are you winning, or are you losing? --and where can we be more mindful in our reactions so that we can begin to win back our wellness?
Luckily, half of the battle is knowing that this game exists, and once we are able to realize that the game is happening, whether we want to play or not, it becomes easier to recognize our own negative reaction tendencies more clearly so that we can work to overcome them, and alleviate stress’ control over our lives and health.
So what can we do to overcome the “Gotcha’s?”
- The first thing we can do to help lighten our stress-load is to put things into perspective, especially with the little things like spilled coffee. Are small instances of “oops” or even forgetfulness really worth stressing yourself out over to the detriment of your health? The answer is no, and if we are able to let go of our negative-reactions within even just this category of circumstances we will find our daily mental states greatly improved.
- The next thing is to be realistic. Traffic happens. --having to wait in slow lines at the Post Office happens --and getting upset and frustrated over things like this isn't going to make it better, it will always make it seem worse. So be realistic, and use the opportunity to practice the cultivation of patience, and realize too that we are not the only one’s being affected by these situations.
- When dealing with people, children and even animals, it is important to remember that they are being subjected to this game at all times too, and maybe they don’t yet have the luxury of knowing it. We must learn and strive to be more sympathetic and patient with each other, as life is tough on us all, and everyone is ultimately looking to be happy and to feel loved. . . And on the flipside, we must also take the time to honestly determine where we ourselves may be pushing buttons, and contributing negatively to others' experiences inside the Gotcha Game.
- With larger issues, like when things don't go my way or don't go as planned, I always try to look for the silver-lining. I focus on finding the positive, and ask myself “is this upheaval in plan leading me toward something better that I didn’t recognize was an option before?” --or, “is there a lesson that I can learn here that will better me in the future?” Learning to ask ourselves these types of questions helps us to cope with disappointments and heartache, and assists us in breaking reactionary habits while improving our overall outlook on life.
Once we are able to change our outlook, change our minds, these stressors lose their power over us, they seem small, and are no longer able to “get our goat” like they were able to do before. You’ll even likely find that it becomes pretty comical just how hard the Gotcha Game tries to get you, which leads us to laughter. --sometimes all you can do is have a laugh, and move on.
So cheers to the power of laughter, and overcoming the “Gotcha’s”😆