How an Asian Like Me Deals with Stress

Stress.  It’s something just about every human being deals with on a daily basis.  It can be a gentle whisper or a screeching, piercing scream.  Either way, it slows us down and makes us nervous and anxious.  Ultimately, it can hold us back from what we desire or have worked hard for.

I am not a scientist who is up-to-date on the latest studies related to stress, but I know it from personal experience.  I’ve felt it before, during, and after a performance.  I suppressed it before difficult conversations with friends.  I let it hang over me over a period of a day, weeks, or even months.  I know stress.

What I have learned thus far is that stress will not ever go away as long as I am alive, as long as I live a life of integrity and honesty, as long as I have a desire to work hard, and as long as I am willing to grow and change.  As such, the goal is not to try to get rid of stress altogether, but to to try to manage it better.

If I let my stress consume me, I’ll never get anything done.  Fear will have taken the best of me.  Well, I’m better than that, and I’ve figured out ways that help me relieve stress.   Maybe some of these suggestions can help you.

Stress reliever #1:  Cats (or kittens)

I am not a dog person, and so I cannot speak on their behalf.  To a fault, I am a Cat lover.  Cats and kittens are the ninja warriors against stress.

Please watch this video and see for yourself:


Yes, kittens!!!!  Maybe you are super stressed.  Find a friend who has kittens or visit your nearest animal shelter to volunteer.  Being around affectionate, playful, or just plain fluffy creatures will brighten anyone’s day.In my life, I have a cat named Steinway.  His existence is well-documented every Saturday, or “Caturday”, at my INSTAGRAM PAGE.  He’s a pretty mellow cat and is very affectionate.  Just petting my cat when he lies next to me in bed melts all my stress away.

Like so .  .  .  .
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Seriously, there is something incredibly soothing about the sound of a cat purring.

If cats aren’t your thing, consider getting a puppy or some other animal to regularly engage with.  The laughter, joy, and comfort you will get will make it all worthwhile.

 Stress Reliever #2: Focused Breathing

We breathe every moment of our lives.  It is a bodily function that occurs regardless of how aware we are of it.  I have found that taking two to three intentional, deep, and slow breathes during times of stress to be extremely helpful.  Very quickly, it offers a calming effect over all of my senses.
I also just focus my mind on the breathing and nothing else.  By clearing every thing out of your head and focusing on one thing, you create space in your mind for clarity.  I find that it helps to do focused breathing in a calm and quiet space, but this is not always possible.  Just remember that the more distractions and noise that surround you, the more intensely you need to focus on your breathing.

Stress Reliever #3:  Playing an instrument

If I could give a new skill to every human being (and cat?) on Earth, it would be the ability to play a musical instrument.  Playing the piano gives me so much joy and is also my personal favorite form of meditation.  Melody, harmony, intonation, rhythm, syncopation, movement, musical style, emotion, and a purely visceral (and at times transformative) experience can all intertwine within a musical performance.  The creation of sound mixed with passion and emotion is a recipe for a more self-aware and fluid way of life.

After playing my keyboard for a while, I feel like I just unloaded all kinds of burdens that were weighing on me, and I did this in a fun way.  I always feel more alive when I play.  So go ahead, pick an instrument.  Cello? Ukulele? Guitar? Violin?  Just learn a song or two and focus on playing them well.  The gratification that comes with hearing your music will instantly lift you up.

Stress Reliever #4:  A slow and quiet walk

I have nothing against high-intensity exercise or anything that requires full bodily exertion.  but in my experience, there’s something vital that you cannot get when your only goal is to push your physical limits or reach a goal.  Those kinds of exercises are great for increasing energy levels, building muscle, and losing weight.

In terms of relieving stress, I favor a slow and quiet walk.  Just get up from where you are and take a leisurely stroll for 10 or 15 minutes.  Walk around a parking lot, down a street, or through a park.  Wherever it is, make it an easy excursion.  Don’t climb a bunch of steps and don’t walk too fast.  The immediate benefit I get when I do this is more blood circulation throughout my body, as opposed to the tightening in one’s neck or back when stressed out.  It is a relaxed way to release tension from your body, and it’s super easy.  Just walk slowly.  Go ahead.

My suggestions for stress relief lean more towards the easy side.  Even with playing an instrument, just learn how to play “twinkle twinkle little star”, and you’ll feel a difference in your mood.  The act of relieving stress should be completely easy and devoid of its own stress altogether.  Try any, all, or just one of my suggestions.  Maybe you can integrate them into your own daily life.

By the way, whatever you choose to keep your stress under control, make sure it won’t lead to any future regrets or unhealthy long-term habits.  For example, some people prefer to eat food, drink alcohol, or smoke cigarettes to take that edge off.  I have nothing against these options.  Just know that they can present some pretty serious consequences over time such as addiction and obesity.

Lastly, I want to say that I fully practice what I preach.  I play on my keyboard every day.  Give my cat lots of love and affection.  I practice focused breathing as often as possible, particularly when stressed.  I often walk slowly, meander, and wander.I will not ever get rid of my stress, but I’ll feel better about myself regardless of its presence, diminishing its power one step, one breathe, or one kitten at a time.

-gordon

Gordon’s 2015 Preview: Life and Creation To Come

PENTAX ImageThe past couple of years have been relatively quiet in my corner of the stratosphere.  I had to make room for other things in my life, things that needed time and space to flourish.  My particular life, with all of its hopeful and sometimes ill-fated pursuits, needed to be experienced, and I certainly lived out quite a bit of all that.

Some things failed.  In fact, perhaps the most significant thing failed, but that’s okay.  Don’t people always say that mighty winged creatures rise out of ashes all the time?  That’s what I’m working on right now I suppose.

I wanted to give you, oh faithful WPR reader, just a little preview of what’s to come in the new year from me, your glittery Asian.

By varying degrees, I guess you can say that I am rebuilding the house that I built.  I tore it down over the last year, and then burned the remains into a smoldering pulp.  This time around, I’m taking greater liberties with the original design.  Letting in lots of sunlight.  Letting the outside in.  Building something that fully represents who I am.

I am committing myself to the heavy lifting and hard work of taking my creative life back to its distilled and authentic form.  Then I’ll reflect it outward as much as I can.

First of all, there’s going to be a good bit of writing.  Before I deemed myself a pianist, singer, performer, or visual artist, I was a writer at my core.  Being able to express my thoughts through my own perspective and voice has always been the foundation for everything I’ve done.  It just so happens that words were my first instruments.

As such, there will be plenty of new blog posts, issues of my monthly e-zine The WWoG (The Wonderful World of Gordon), new poetry, and of course, new music.  Yes, there will be more of all of this.  (The work of recording my next full album-sonically documenting my musical words-will continually bubble under the surface of these things.)

I will also proceed with new visual work.  This will manifest itself in some wonderful ways.  There will be plenty of photography and new portraits of Oreo and Buttercup, as well as the continuation of my ongoing 100 Drawings project, which should resume this summer.

In addition, I also crave connection with people and the world at large.  Not many people know this about me, but I can live the life of a hermit, in complete and utter isolation, quite easily.  I possess a stout and stubborn introverted spirit that is often at almost violent odds with the side of me that loves to perform in front of any number of people.

I spend plenty of time by myself, and in contrast, I hope to find ways to connect with other actual human beings in 2015.  This means I will be back to a consistent performing schedule, but it also means that maybe even you, dear reader, might spot a not-so-invisible Asian fluttering about all topsy-turvy in your neighborhood.

So, those mighty winged creatures that rise out of ashes all of the time–do such things really happen?

Well, I guess we’ll find out.

-gordon

365 Days of Thankfulness In 2015

365dotSo far in my life, I have come to learn that we should be thankful every day of our lives.  Thankful for some things.  Thankful for everything.   We should.  We must.

Why?

Well, because it is a form of happiness.  Mind you, that’s my answer, and it is a personal truth I have come to own.

I, like many people, have often wondered what happiness is.  Maybe it is a fleeting, momentary occurrence of bliss, like a flash of sunlight in between large passing clouds, or an accidental rainbow, or a hug from someone you love.  Maybe happiness exists only in memories, as we smile while looking backwards at the distances we’ve crossed and the lives we touched.

Maybe happiness is all of these things.  Sure.

But thankfulness is not a maybe.  It is a concrete assurance that all that you have, all you’ve been given, and all that you hold dear has value, even if all of these things don’t seem to amount to much.  Thankfulness means that there can be dignity even if you are downtrodden.  It means there can be comfort in times of great crisis and despair.  It means there can be sustenance in times of hunger.

Thankfulness is that incremental slice of something that makes all of the other miserable somethings a little more bearable.  Imagine if we had more of those incremental slices.

That could be happiness.  In my mind, it is.

So, instead of being thankful once in a while, what if we could be truly thankful every day?  If thankfulness is happiness, then what could that mean?  In 2015, I hope to find out.

For all of 2015, I will be posting my thankfulness EVERY DAY on Facebook and Twitter.  You will see a post from me expressing my gratitude for one thing or many things that give my life value and meaning.

Here’s the best part!  You can do it too!!!  Join me and post your gratitude every day with the hashtag #365DaysofThankfulness

I think it’s gonna be a full and wonderful year to come.

Happy New Year.

-gordon

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas from WPR!

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Happy Holidays!!!  Merry Christmas!!!

Steinway, Oreo, Buttercup, and I wanted to give all of our WPR readers tidings of great joy!!!

To celebrate this momentous occasion, here is an adorable compilation of the best cat and kitten videos from youtube in 2014.

You’re welcome .  .  .

Enjoy the food, the merriment, the family, the friends, and all the love!!!

-gordo

You Don’t Have To Try

try

About three months ago, I was driving along in my car and flipping between NPR and a local pop radio station.  It was still morning, and I wasn’t expecting to hear much outside of the news and the same set of pop songs on rotation.  Well, I was wrong.  The radio dj introduced the newest song from Colbie Caillat called “Try”, and to be honest, I really loved it.

It didn’t have the heavy beats or the vocal gymnastics that seem to be a prerequisite to get on the radio these days.  Don’t get me wrong, I like those kinds of things when they are done well, but it was refreshing to find a song that seemed to be built completely around its message.  Caillat doesn’t over-sing or over-sell this song either.  It just floats gently along with very little drama, all the while not losing an ounce of its effectiveness.

To me, the best part of this song is its message.  I’ve been thinking about it a whole lot ever since I heard it three months ago on the radio.

We live in a time when we are encouraged and expected to try our hardest at just about anything, to do our best, to BE our best.  Women are pressured to look and dress as beautifully as possible.  Men are pressured to be fit and macho.  We are all pressured to be successful and smart with all kinds of other things.

This particularly strikes home with me since I have always been the kind of person to do my best and try extra super hard to accomplish or be something.  I’ve come to learn that my successes had little bearing upon how I actually felt about myself.  Achievement and a poor self-image can co-exist just as much as failure and a poor self-image can.  I know this all too well.

The problem is that we let these pressures, goals, and expectations get mixed up with how we view ourselves.  Ultimately, whatever the outcome of our efforts, we, every single one of us, are worthwhile, lovable, and amazing in our own ways.  Whether we succeed or fail, have makeup on or not, have huge muscles or not, have the best clothes or not, we need to see, protect, and celebrate the beauty and tremendous self-worth that we inherently have regardless of any of those actions and possessions.

In the end, we don’t have to try to be anything.  We can just be.  Be who we are.  Be who we want to be.  And this is enough.  This is plenty.  This is everything.

On the day each of us was born, we were all cute, valuable, lovable, and adorable just as we were.  At what point did this change?

What if how we saw ourselves directly affected what we did with our lives?  If we loved and believed in ourselves, what if that prompted us to do great things and effect positive change within our own lives?

So, if you haven’t heard it already, here is the video for the song I’m raving about.  (I’ve also included the lyric video.)  Thankfully, the song and video focus on women’s self-image, but I really believe that the message is far more universal.

Underneath all of those things that make you look gorgeous or more likable and popular, there is someone who is already pretty damn amazing.

It’s true.  We don’t have to try so hard.  The value that we see in ourselves is only as good as we make it.

The next time you are by yourself.  Take off that shiny jacket and those cool shoes.  Let your hair down.  Wipe off your makeup.  Peel off every layer.

Then ask yourself if you like who you see.

If you don’t, that’s ok, for now.

Just know that the only answer that truly matters is the one you give to yourself.

-gordo