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A strange thing for me: getting stressed out

June 14, 2009
By MATTHEW GOODEMOTE, For The Leader-Herald

A very strange thing happened to me this week.

I got stressed out. I say it's strange because what specifically happened was a surprise to me and it came in a way I was not expecting. One thing is for sure, it stopped me in my tracks.

We are expanding at the Wellness Center. We have taken on an additional 2,100 square feet of space next to "Shop-n-Save" at the front of the shopping plaza where we are now. This week, I have been running around looking for flooring and paint colors and carpet colors. This is not where my expertise lies.

We also have a new treadmill coming that was designed by NASA to help their astronauts returning from space. This machine has a plastic bubble that you zip into, similar to how you zip into a kayak to seal the bubble. Then you inflate the bubble and it lifts you off the ground.

It can take up to 80 percent of your body weight off.

This means people with arthritis can walk pain free People with strokes can walk again.

People with Parkinson's disease can walk safely. Athletes can run immediately after an injury and have a shorter rehab time. People after surgery can walk weeks earlier than normal.

So there are a lot of exciting things happening and all positive, but when I got lost in what was happening on the "outside" of me, I drifted away from what was happening on the "inside" of me.

Without knowing it, this resulted in stress building to the point of physically stopping me in the form of a massive headache.

Now I know why people with migraines have such a hard time. It's rough having a headache so intense you can't see straight.

When we built the original Wellness Center, stress was a normal part of my daily routine. I often got caught up in the storm of life and construction added to my anxiety.

It was going through that experience that really catapulted me towards finding peace first.

I was simply on the verge of meltdown every day and needed to get help purely for the fact of surviving. Now typically, I watch the storm of life, but I am not wrapped up in it.

I love to describe my life as me running my head through walls to get what I thought I wanted.

In the end, I have experienced time and time again how walking through the doors instead has made my life so much more fluid. In the end, I have always gotten what I needed.

I have experienced the flow of life that happens when we step back and allow life to unfold without "my will" involved.

As my teacher Byron Katie says, there are three people's business:

Our business.

Other people's business.

God's business.

We have no business in other people's business and no business in God's business. We need to only worry about our business. I have made this part of my every day reality.

When I feel the signs of stress, you know the ones - anxiety, anger, frustration, hurt feelings etc. - then I stop what I am doing and question whose business I am in.

When I am in other people's business or in God's business it is the same as getting caught in the storm "outside" of me. So I redirect my attention onto me and resolve my issues.

When I try to have my will instead of "thy will" I typically find a metaphoric headache. This time however my headache was a real headache and it was so bad that I literally had to stop.

At first I was trying, just like a lot of my patients, to find a physical reason for my headache. Was it something I ate? Was it lack of sleep? Did I hit my head? Was I sick with a virus? Maybe I had a sinus infection?

In the end it turns out what was happening was merely self-inflicted. My headache was because I was banging my head against the wall. Or more specifically I was trying to run my head through a wall to achieve something. I was trying to control things that are outside my control. I got back into that place where "my will" was to make decisions based on urgency instead of peace.

As I told one of my staff recently, once we have fully committed to travel in a new direction for our life it is impossible to go back to where we started.

Sure we may forget and taste the "old way" but it is so foul we spit it out quickly.

Eventually the thought of heading back to the "old way" is enough to redirect us back to the path of peace.

At the Wellness Center, we are blessed with abundance. I love to walk in and see how many people have come to be a part of wellness. My staff and I are truly dedicated to providing the best possible care we can and truthfully, we thrive on the energy and abundance that we experience.

So even though there are times when it seems like I am very busy, inside I am very calm and peaceful. My stress is definitely not related to seeing patients or to the large staff I have.

My stress is not from anything with my job, in other words. My personal stressors come from wanting to make things happen immediately or from trying to force things to happen before things are really ready.

Interestingly, I have been talking to friends and patients about "what's the hurry?" I have noticed that we are all in a big hurry to have what we want immediately. We say we are committed to a relationship for the long haul, right up until the long haul means more than a few months of trying to work things out. Then the long haul becomes not worth the effort.

When it comes to our health we are willing to commit to a lifetime of health as long as we can achieve it in a few weeks because we don't really have time to exercise every week. Or as long as we get to "enjoy" food that makes us feel awful after we eat it or overeat it.

We are committed to reducing our stress as long as we don't have to actually stop doing what causes us the most stress or change how we do that thing that really stresses us the most.

In other words, we will reduce our stress as long as it doesn't actually take our stress away. Even though that makes no sense, at all I believed it and have heard it said in different ways hundreds of times.

We are embarking on a new road at the Wellness Center and my old way was to try and plan and "control" the events so we would be successful.

Well, I literally have a book filled with ideas and programs, I want to implement at the Wellness Center.

The trouble is we have been so successful that I haven't had time to implement my brilliant ideas.

In other words, "Matt's will" is most certainly not why things have gone the way they have. If anything, things have gone so well despite me.

Now I am not trying to beat myself up right now. In fact, what I am doing is trying to make a point.

The Wellness Center is thriving because of my staff, my patients and doctors who send us patients.

I have discovered that when we force our way, we truly make life more difficult for ourselves. When we stop and take a step back, we gain perspective and this allows us to make a wise choice.

I was speaking to the faculty at Canajoharie last week. My talk was on wellness. After my talk, I was speaking to a woman who knew she needed to take better care of herself but couldn't find the time. She knew that meditation in particular would be helpful, but in her day there simply was nowhere to fit it in.

I remember thinking similar thoughts until one day, a teacher of mine suggested I "find stillness first." Before I got out of bed, I would take the 30 seconds to breathe and just feel my body.

Throughout my day, I would leave the treatment floor and go into my room and just breathe for a minute and as I say, find my peace.

At home in the shower and using the restroom, I would take time to breathe and find my peace. In the car at stop signs, or when I first start the car, I would breathe.

Before I spoke to my wife, I would breathe. When in a situation where an argument is brewing, I would breathe first and speak second. When I sat down to write, I would breathe first.

There is time if you are truly interested in finding your peace. It is available right now. All you have to do, is put the paper down for 30 seconds and take some nice deep breaths. So really, right now, stop and breathe.

I choose to step back now and remember that life is filled with opportunities to see where your real priorities are. For me, there is no question. Peace is my most important priority. The freedom that comes when I find my peace first is unmistakable. The gifts that come to me and my family are unmistakable when peace is put first.

I am certain that "thy will" is far more intelligent than "Matt's will" so I surrender to "thy will" and it feels good. That moment of stopping, of surrender is available to everyone.

The ability to notice the silence that underlies everything is available to everyone. As my friend says, the best way to hear silence is to stop, like stopping to listen to snow fall.

Notice the space that takes up most of our field of vision. We put our attention on the stars in the night sky but what dominates the sky is the space around the stars. The same is true in the very room you are sitting. We immediately notice the objects in the room, take a minute to notice the space that fills the room from the floor to the ceiling.

Stopping does not have to be in a formal meditation setting. It can literally be breathing for a minute each time you sit down to eat.

Watching the birds fly around outside your window also works.

Turn the TV off and listen to the silence in the room. Really put your attention on the sound that your house makes when there is no distraction.

For some, putting your attention on your hand and feeling the life that animates your body works.

Stress has a profound affect on the body. Fortunately, life gives us several opportunities to recognize what this stress is, but it requires our involvement.

With our intentional involvement, we can begin to learn the lessons it is teaching. For me, stopping is the key that unlocks the door.

If you are having a hard time figuring out why you get headaches, the first step is to stop banging your head against the wall.

Next, consider where you are putting your attention. If you are in other people's business or in God's business, it is time to redirect yourself back into your own business.

Finally, notice if are you more interested in "your will" or "thy will?"

I have followed these steps and it has done wonders for me.

My headache is gone, my energy is back and my commitment is renewed.

Thank you all so much for reading my articles and for saying all the kind words you say about the Wellness Center and me. I am truly grateful.

Matthew Goodemote, a Gloversville native, owns Community Physical Therapy & Wellness. His Health & Wellness column will answer your questions and discuss topics that are relevant to your everyday way of life. If you would like to ask a question, e-mail Matthew at



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