Bob MacArthur

A dose of anxiety can help us achieve our peak performance, but too much stress can immobilize us and endanger our health. Think of toxic conditions at work, conflicts in relationships, acting to please others and over-committing ourselves. How do we find the balance?

Our body has an amazing capacity to regulate itself in seeking balance, homeostasis. Think of how it maintains its core temperature. When cold, it shivers to generate warmth. When hot, it sweats to dissipate heat. These are involuntary responses. If we pay attention, we can use them as barometers of balance and health.

For example, when our brain senses we are in peril, it floods our body with adrenaline, cortisol and other hormones that mobilize us to fight or flee. We can feel our heart pound and our pulse race in preparation. However, if the real or perceived danger is sustained and our emergency response chemicals persist in our body, they can damage our heart and weaken our immune system. At some point symptoms of dis-ease will surface in discomfort, pain or lumps.

We compose our lives with the decisions we make. Becoming aware of our body’s signals to us is the first choice in regaining equilibrium. Other decisions include seeking help in resolving intractable conflicts and declining when asked to add one more commitment to an over-extended schedule. Choosing to make time for self-care is essential – walk, read, ride, practice yoga, meditate.

There is a Buddhist invocation that reminds us of the goal to seek balance in living. I have adopted a version of it as an aspiration for composing my life. It is simple but full of truths to ponder.

May I dwell in the great equanimity free from attachment, aversion, aggression and prejudice.