Obsessing About Stressing


The other night I dreamed an entire blog post. I woke up a few times thinking, “Yay! This will be a good one!” but dozed off again before writing anything down. When the alarm rang we jumped up and raced off to our grandchildren’s soccer, baseball, and volleyball games. By the time I thought about my dream it had snuck into that place where unremembered dreams hide. I sure wish I could find that place. I hate losing a good idea for a post. But I’m trying not to stress over it.
I used to think I was very laid back, but lately I’m reconsidering: partly due to an excess of traveling, and partly because I had my annual checkup last week and my doctor questioned my alleged “white coat syndrome.” My mother, a nurse, would have dismissed it with, “Pooh! It’s all in your head!” But, hey! What’s in your head is still real, right? It’s even been written up in medical journals! It’s when your blood pressure reaches a hypertensive average in an office setting but not at home. Oddly, people with this condition don’t exhibit signs of trepidation. That’s me. I don’t feel anxious or get palpitations, but put me in a room with a white coat and my blood pressure soars.
I’ve known this since I volunteered to be a guinea pig in my high school anatomy lab. After a quizzical look and two re-checks, my teacher sent me back to my desk with a vague, “Oh, you’re probably feeling a bit excited,” before quickly changing the subject. Now I always warn the nurse.
My goal is a reading no higher than 130 over 80. Last week I felt perfectly calm but it was 161 over 94! Yet I always get normal numbers at those blood pressure machines in the grocery store! Weird. But, good patient that I am, I bought a blood pressure monitor. After recording the numbers I note what I was doing before I checked it because I’m curious to see if there are any patterns. So far, out of 25 readings my average is a perfectly respectable 125/76.
And yes, I’ve found a pattern. The six lowest readings averaged 110/70. Of these, two were taken immediately after I’d written long e-mails to friends, one after playing Words With Friends on my I-phone, two after being with my children and grandchildren, and one after checking my social media sites. I love it! All six had to do with positive interactions with family or friends! Conversely, the highest reading, 149/87, was taken after I’d spent an hour trying to figure out how to edit my e-mail signature! That time I didn’t need to take my blood pressure to know I was stressed!
So what gems of self-knowledge have I mined from this little science experiment?
1.  My ego may believe I’m not afraid to die, but somewhere in my unconscious (probably next door to the Cave for Unremembered Dreams) lives a part of me that fears the things I associate with doctors: physical vulnerability, suffering, mortality. More “proof” of this split-off part: an hour ago while I was writing about white coat syndrome my blood pressure rose to 137/86! Now that I’m almost finished with this post, it’s down to 128/73!
2.  I love how easy my computer makes blogging and writing to friends, but it also has a sick technological side. Obviously, I need a computer doctor! No one with a white coat need apply.
3.  Balancing work I love with good relationships is the best medicine I know for stress.
I just took my blood pressure again. It’s 122/71! (Am I obsessing? Should I worry about bursting blood vessels in my left arm?)
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0 Responses

  1. Oh how wonderful to receive this blog! Here is a laughing “Hi 5” of recognition from one ‘white coat syndrome’ ponderer to another.

  2. Yup, I’ve got it, too. I agree with the de-stressing effects of visits with grandchildren and good friends, but my highest blood pressure reading ever was when I went to the doctor immediately after a visit with a very good friend. The culprit? She served me a cup of espresso while I was visiting.

  3. I’ve been able at times to recall a dream using self-hypnosis. I go to my inner room, and there I see a door with a sign on it that says, “Dream Recall.” I enter the dream I wish to recall through this door.

    1. Really? You’ve been in the Cave for Unremembered Dreams? Way cool! Seriously, that’s fascinating to me. I’ve never tried it and am not sure I’m capable of it. I tried self-hypnosis several times when I was in my late teens but never quite succeeded. It’s quite a feat for the ego to voluntarily step aside and open to the unconscious when it’s totally conscious. I think it must take a different kind of ego, or maybe brain, than mine. Still, I’d like to try it. Maybe my years of dreamwork have prepared the way for a more successful outcome for this kind of active imagination. Thanks for the idea. Jeanie

  4. That’s so funny, as I was writing that, I was thinking, surely someone who’s studied dreams and Jung so much has done plenty of visualization/hypnosis/etc. Or think of it as guided meditation. You don’t have to feel like you’re in an altered state or anything “weird,” you can benefit even if you don’t feel anything in particular. I’m sure your mental abilities are hugely different than when you were in your teens. Henry Leo Bolduc put a lot of resources on self-hypnosis online. He recommended recording a session using your own voice, which is easier to trust than someone else’s.

    1. I like the idea of recording a session using your own voice! I’ve participated in a few guided meditations and conducted a few myself. I’ve found them interesting, but not very compelling. That’s just me. One thought on this: Dr. Ernest Hartmann, who’s explored sleep and dreams for 50 years, believes that some people have thinner “boundaries” (between the conscious and unconscious) than others and that the thinner the boundary, the easier it is to cross over between the two. Mine is certainly not thick, but I know it’s not as thin as some. Perhaps if it were thinner I’d have been more attracted to visualization/hypnosis/etc.

  5. Jeanie, I’m laughing, too.. Many years ago, I had a powerful dream that ended with the Dalai Lama giving me detailed meditation instructions. During the dream, I said to myself, “I’m glad this is being recorded because I’m too blissed out to remember what he’s saying.” And then I woke up. No recording, of course, and no memory of his instructions. They are hiding out with your perfect blog.
    Glad to know those home blood pressure readings are in good ranges. Once again, our inseparable body and psyche.

    1. Your Dalai Lama dream is perfect!! I think our inner Tricksters must love doing things like that to us just to remind us we’re human and that’s okay! Thanks for writing, Jeanie

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