Freshly back to patient care after a long pandemic-induced hiatus, zipping along a remarkably empty highway, bopping to my favorite oldies on the radio = living my best life…. I sure have a lot to be Thankful and Grateful for!

Hmm… the 18-wheeler beside is making a terrible racket (that mysteriously doesn’t stop when he passes); hmm… was the car’s alignment always this wonky; hmmm… why are people honking?… I sure need to get over to the shoulder of the 401 Express lanes and deal with the fact my car’s suddenly a 3-wheel drive!

I recently had one of the most anxiety-inducing experiences I can think of (not that living in pandemic, social isolation, home-schooling, not-working, socio-political distress wasn’t already baseline anxiety producing enough). Just like most other things everyone’s complained about in 2020, this one was totally out of my control. I went from cruising at the speed-limit (or a bit beyond…shhhhh) to… well… not when my tire blew out on the Express lanes of the 401 highway at mid-day.

There I was, in a real-life example of a phenomenon I talk to many patients/presentation-guests about that we call ‘being bush-wacked’. The definition of bush-whack would be; being in a high-vibration state of positivity/joy/‘goodness’ and having your feet kicked out from under you by the low-vibration experience of a negative/upsetting/‘bad’ event that takes you by surprise. Like being stranded in the literal middle of the highway (safely on the shoulder thank goodness!), with the tow-truck dispatcher telling you that because of pandemic-precautions the tow-truck driver can’t allow you to ride with him to safety… oh, and cars whizzing by shaking your car, and knowing you’ll not make your appointment, and…

As you can imagine, being bush-whacked can leave your system in disarray! And that disarray can potentially set-in long-term in the nervous system, muscles, and energy system without action taken to calm it and reset. Lucky for me, I’m aware of the phenomenon of bush-whacking, and I’ve practiced some tools to counter it for a good while now, such that I reverted to them consciously and sub-consciously while waiting to get off the highway and throughout the next days.

Here’s some of the things I did:

First – breath! Your body’s natural response to stress is to go shallow with the breath (fight/flight). But you can send calming messages to the brain by breathing deep and slow. I went to my favourite, 4-square breathing to let my sub-conscious brain know that everything was under control.

Second – trust! I invested consciously in trust by listing the positive things I knew I could trust in – that my husband would stay on the phone with me the whole time he was coming to meet me, that we had CAA coverage and their day-in-day-out job was to get people out of this kind of pickle, that it was daylight on a clear, warm day – the safest conditions I could imagine having this experience in.

Third – ask for help! Ok, chronologically, this one might have come before the others… I was direly stuck after all. The lesson here is you don’t have to fend-for-yourself in many, many situations we’re too prideful or shy to ask others for assistance with. Could I have freed myself? I suppose. In the end the solution was changing the tire for the spare in my own trunk and driving the car to safety. But you bet the solution came easier when I enlisted everyone from hubby, to the dispatcher, to the tow-truck driver, to even the family and friends that commiserated with me after the fact.

Fourth – stay Grateful! And for bonus-points, express it! Two additional tow-truck drivers stopped by while I was waiting for the one dispatched to me. I’ve heard that interactions with these gentlemen who patrol the highway looking for stranded cars can be intimidating; I chose to smile and thank them profusely for their offers, and they were exceedingly polite and friendly. I thanked my tow truck driver for nervously replacing the tire so we could drive away, my husband for doing the driving away, and my lucky stars (many times) that I’d navigated the experience with only my car broken.

Fifth – move the experience through the body! When fight/flight kicks in, the body must respond. Heart rate increases, muscles tighten and a myriad of other events cascade through the body instantaneously in response to the alarm. It’s not good for those responses to stay ‘on’ past the actual experience. Yoga is great for resetting mindfully. I find walking a good relief too. I’ve developed a practice of walking to the rhythm of a constant stream of gratitudes. I just list them in the cadence that I walk until I can’t think of any more. I definitely did this after ‘the incident’.

Did I turn a negative experience into a positive? Well, it’s not one I care to repeat any time soon. But I know it could’ve been a lot more traumatic – both the event and it’s aftermath. It reinforced the necessity of being aware – not apprehensive – and alert – not fearful, and for implementing the 5 tools I listed above in my daily life whether things are trending good or bad.

Have you ever been bush-whacked? How did you process the stress?

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