How I Deal with Anxiety and Stress

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Ahh … Yoga is so refreshing. I wish I could explain how it makes me feel in a way that accurately depicts just how [insert positive adjective] it is. But all I seem to have at hand are stories and memories. So, here’s a memory that makes me feel the way that yoga feels.

Stressed out, near tears, and very much frustrated with a situation that seemed beyond my control, I reached out to someone close to me. He listened, or at least, I think he listened (he gave me the appropriate acknowledgements to assure me he was). And yet, there was nothing he could or would tell me specifically about what my problem was. Instead, he gave me a piece of advice that made me feel… Confused at first, but after meditating on it, centered.

“Live in the now,” he said. “Don’t get ahead of yourself. Take things as they come.”

Fuck, I thought. Is that my problem?

do get ahead of myself. I do get excited for things. I also get worried about things. The amount of times I’ve felt let down by reality is stifling. And sure, sometimes things have actually worked out better than I hoped, but realistically, the percentage of “awesome things happening” versus “actual things happening” lean heavily in the latter’s favor.

Ugh.
I hate that.

… But I know I shouldn’t.

Hating the future means we are so blinded by what might be or may be that we forget to see what is.

So, I asked myself, “Where am I now? What is happening to me in the present? How do I feel about my reality?”

And I answered, “I’m alive. I’m healthy. I ate way too much at San Francisco Oysterfest yesterday, but that was yesterday. Not now. Right now, I am refreshed from an early yoga class, a shower, and a nap. I’m breathing. I feel clean. The sunshine is warm. I am okay. Everything is okay.”

Then, I felt thirsty.
So I reached for my glass, drank my fill, and I relaxed.
The water tasted good.

Stress is powerful and overwhelming.

It can come from anything.
It is painful, and scary, and because of that, we often work furiously to eliminate it.

But what we seem to forget, and what my friend reminded me through those simple words, is that by focusing so intensely on the stress we are feeling, we bring more focus and attention to that stress, and the cycle only continues because of it.

Doesn’t that seem like a waste of energy? And how relieving does it feel to know that alleviating stress can be as easy as intentionally focusing on something else? Changing our perspective — not to something not necessarily positive or uplifting, but real! And if that still sounds hard, well … Let me explain it through yoga.

In yoga, the rule is this: breathe.

Everything you do flows around your breath.
“One breath, one movement.”
Breathe in.
Breathe out.

When you find yourself in a challenging pose, with your body twisted or bent in such a way that you feel your muscles quivering, your legs about to give out, or your arms apt to collapse beneath you, you train your focus instead on your breathing. It might come ragged, but you focus on it anyway.

Bring intention into your breath.
Follow the air in.
And out.
Slow.
Steady.
Full.

Give yourself permission to breathe loudly.
To sigh with relieving purpose.

Beads of sweat leave salty trails down the surface of your skin, and still, you breathe. And your body feels all the better because of it.

Breathe, and forget, for just a moment, the challenging thing you are striving to overcome. Release that intensity and focus on your breath. It will get you through it. And if you fall, or if you fail, it’s okay — because you’re breathing. So climb again, working your way intentionally back to where you were through the guidance of your breath.

Yoga teaches you to let go. You release the tension from your face and loosen the muscles that don’t need to do any work, conserving your energy only for the things that matter in whatever pose you take, all while stretching and kneading and returning your tightly-wound body back into this limber, flexible state, feeling yourself grow stronger every day, more relaxed every moment, able to do things you couldn’t before, thriving on that growth. And you focus your intention only on the things that deserve your attention at that very moment.

And you breathe.
You always breathe.

Yoga and the Present.

* Doesn’t that sound like it would make a really great stress-relief book title? Like some kind of self-help book to meditation and healthy living? If someone steals that from me, you’re welcome.

My secret to stress relief is as simple as that.
But it can be different for anyone.

It can be as simple as giving myself permission to give myself a shoulder massage, reaching back to squeeze my tired muscles. My stress relief has sometimes been as simple as boiling a pot of water to brew a peppermint tea. I’ve even found relief in enjoying a walk down the street to drink fresh young coconut water straight from the fruit, scooping out and chewing on its fleshy white meat, loving the sunshine.

And it can be as simple as breathing. As simple as living in the now. The present.

So, okay. I get it.
I stress out easily.
But I’ve been working on it.

Age and experience have taught me that life is stressful. It is a daily practice to center myself, and to remind myself not to get caught up in the little things. It has taught me not to waste my focus and energy on things that simply do not matter to my reality, my now. It has taught me to accept when I fail, and to learn from my failures knowing that I always have the present to try again. To become stronger.

Failure only teaches you what not to do. You still have to learn what you should do, and the future is, in reality, intangible. You’ll never know the future as your present if you don’t keep trying. And all we have is today.

When I think about that, all of that, I stop caring about the nonsense. The external struggle. The stress. I remind myself to look within, and I remember how happy I am there. And I think that sense of feeling present, owning who you are at that moment, reminding yourself of your strength through something as simple as your intentional breath during one of the most difficult things your body has ever done — I think all of those things work together and give me a sense of … Well …

Control.

I admit it. I can be a total control freak sometimes. A lot of my own sense of personal stress comes from feeling out of control. My life is planned around that feeling. I don’t mean that I spend my free time cracking whips or telling people what to do (although that does sound kinda’ fun in that freaky kind of way), but I do mean that I am accustomed to constantly studying and adjusting to my changing environment, preparing for inevitable things that I might never have seen coming. Wanting to remain in control.

I tend to micro-manage. I like to know that the things I invest my time in are things that see a reasonable return. That means understanding every sensation that comes into my life and appraising potential or pending energy spend like some kind of robot. But I’m not a robot, I’ve learned, and I need to give myself permission to breathe.

In the past, more often than not, I would become frustrated when things didn’t turn out the way I hoped they would. In the present, rather than dwelling on a situation that is out of my control, I accept it as it is, take a breath, and move forward. That is all anyone can do.

One upon a time, I was stressed out over a relationship that seemed to be failing, and it tore me apart. I couldn’t do anything about it. I felt I was at my lowest emotionally. Everything felt out of my control. Another time, a man flashing a knife accosted me at work, yelling at me from across the counter while customers watched in shock. I was terrified.

In every situation, the best thing I could have done and did do for myself was to remain calm, breathe, and remember to take things as they come, moving through my present one step at a time, flowing from this moment to the next, being honest with myself and making my choices based on truthful rationalizations. Remember:

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” – Bruce Lee

TL;DR: Remember to breathe and live in the present. When things feel overwhelming, pull your focus away from the stuff of your nightmares and remember where you are at that moment. Place intention in your breath, and give yourself permission to be. Stress is not a thing you need to overcome. Don’t waste your energy on things beyond your control. Let it go. To let go of your control is to be in control. So, exhale it out. Then, give yourself permission to breathe in the new, filling up your lungs to the very top, urging yourself to take those very last sips of air, expanding your chest. Then, let it go with a great “haaaaaaaaaaaaa.” How do you feel?

… Now do it again.

Namaste,
Cheri

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This website wants to feature me as a Hot Babe. Should I do it?

I was just asked to model for a website very much like theCHIVE. It’s ranked fairly high globally and in the US as far as websites go, and after a bit of research, I’ve found it has a primarily college-educated and male readership. The spread they want to feature me in would label me as a “hot babe”, and we’d do an interview of sorts to help their readers get to know me.

Hmm.
I don’t know, guys.

A couple of things:

  1. Do I really want more dudes fapping to and following me online? Does that matter to me? Will it matter to me in the future?
  2. What sort of doors will this open for me, and are they the sort of doors I want opened?
  3. Is this the sort of exposure I ultimately want?
  4. My poor parents and family. -_-“

A buddy of mine joked recently that the number of men who have probably fapped to the thought of me is most likely numbered in the hundreds of thousands. My response was an immediate “GROSSSS WHY WOULD YOU EVEN SAY THAT TO MEEEE” — but also, with the amount of comments I get on Facebook as well as messages or emails begging to talk to me, I can safely assume his assessment is true.

And c’mon. I watch my analytics. I am fully aware that when I post photos from any sort of modeling gig, the traffic on my website jumps substantially.

Sigh.

Let me first just say: I’m grateful for my fans. Really, I am. If it weren’t for you guys and gals, I doubt I’d be anywhere near where I am today. I consider myself lucky to have reached this level of Internet “stardom” (though I admit to putting in a substantial amount of work to achieve this) as I am absolutely a “regular” girl next door — I go out with my friends, hang out with my family, have a day job, date, work out, slum around in pajamas all day, have bad hair days, acne breakouts, and experience the various ups and downs of life just like anyone else. And I wouldn’t say I’ve hit the genetic lottery or anything, especially in comparison to actual pro models out there, but I am perfectly comfortable in my own body and enjoy the way I look both with and without makeup. And if the swarms of positive and uplifting emails and complimentary messages flooding my inbox every day are any indication, I’d say I definitely have a reason to strut with my head held high and a perpetual smile plastered to my face.

But it’s not always fun and games. As an Internet-popular persona of sorts, the pressures I deal with in trying to satisfy everyone’s needs can be really daunting.

For example, some people expect me not to curse, and expect me to be this submissive, servile, docile little Asian girl who doesn’t react inappropriately to bad situations and always minds her manners. And I suppose, for the most part, I am those things — but I am also a passionate woman, and in rare instances, I do blow up.

Some people also expect me to respond to each and every single one of the comments or emails I get, and y’know, maybe when I was like, 19 or something, that was fine, because no one really followed me back then and I actually had the time to get back to every single person as well as the ability to write about whatever-the-fuck I wanted without people blowing up at me over stupid things like how I felt uncomfortable with a guy who went to prison touching my hair and telling me I smell good but who also happens to be blind and supposedly that makes me “ableist” even though as everyone who’s anyone will recall I dated someone with ONE HAND for like FOUR YEARS so maybe someone needs to get their facts straight.

Ahem.

Now that I have a gajillion people reaching out to me over the web, it is a lottery chance that I respond.

I’m sorry about that.
Really, I am.
I wish I could get back to all of you, but I just can’t.
I often find myself wishing I had my own manager to just tell me what to do, direct me this way and that way, manage my fan mail and coax me along — ugh. That would make everything so much easier!

:/

I get offered work and random gigs like the modeling feature I mentioned on a pretty regular basis, but I like to pick and choose between what I do based on the legitimacy of the folks I’d end up working with. I have worked with more than enough shady people in the past (the modeling and photography business is full of creepers), and after the experiences I’ve had, you can’t blame me for being more choosy with the work I accept.

Plus, c’mon.
If a website is going to feature me, it means I’d be advertising their stuff to my followers as well. That’s like, 40,000 people on Google+, nearly 300,000 on Facebook, plus wherever else people manage to gobble up my nonsense online (though not Tumblr anymore, obviously, since I accidentally deleted it like an idiot). So, when I’m offered work, I have to consider how that will affect my current following as WELL as the inevitable following to come. And, assuming I plan on doing the “Internet-Famous” thing forever, well …

Ohh decisions.

I think the biggest thing holding me back from modeling 24/7 is the fact that I am smart, and that I don’t want to be known for just my looks. It’s sort of a lowest-hanging-fruit thing — I can take the easy route and smile for the camera and rack up them dollas just being pretty, or I can try to become well-known for the things I actually enjoy and feel make me me.

It’s the reason I push my art so much. It’s the reason I write so much. It’s the reason I participate in business panels and consult startups and companies to help them better plan their social media strategies — I don’t want to just be a “pretty face”, and it really bothers me to think that this is the image I might be projecting to the masses. But it’s tough to find that balance because I do enjoy modeling, and I do enjoy being in front of the camera. So what do I do, y’know? How do I handle that?

Guh.

I’ll figure it out.
Also, I need food right now.

So, uh …
Peace.

peace

Later gators,
Cheri

Are blind men supposed to make you feel uncomfortable?

A blind man needed help finding a bottle of Pepsi he had dropped at the train station. He petitioned me for help, and in a simple gesture of social kindness, I put down my book to assist him. When I returned the soda, he struck up a conversation with me. Things lead to things, and soon we were discussing history books he’d been listening to on audio tape and diving into his favorite royal figureheads at length.

He asked for the time, and I gave it to him. Appearing worried, he then asked for help finding the station window to speak with an attendant. I had never helped a blind man walk before. I suppose there’s a first time for everything.

I took his tattooed arm in mine, helped him to his feet (which took a moment as he was a bit heavy-set and clumsy), then lead him slowly through the station. As we made our way, he commented, “You have long hair.”
“I do.”
“I love long hair.”
“Thank you. How did you know I have long hair?”
“My fingertips brushed it when you took my arm. It’s very soft.”

Suddenly, I felt uncomfortable.
Are blind men supposed to make you feel uncomfortable?
Maybe I was overreacting …
I grit my teeth and dismissed my initial reaction.

He continued.

“You have a beautiful voice. Musical. I can’t stop listening to it. I knew when we started talking that you were a friendly, beautiful person. If I could liken you to someone in history, you would be Marie Antoinette.”
“Didn’t she have her head chopped off?”
“Yes, but she was a woman who lived within her means, and the people loved her. She was always kind to others.”
“I see … Thank you.”

Although he was complimenting me and making small-talk, I couldn’t stop that feeling of discomfort from slowly creeping over me. And when he asked me to lead him outside for a minute so he could “get some air”, I knew I wasn’t enjoying myself. What was originally meant to be a polite and swift gesture had quickly morphed into a sort of obligated dance in attempting to be polite to someone physically handicapped while still maintaining what distance I could from a man who was obviously hitting on me.

“Are you wearing perfume?”
“Yes, I am.”
“It’s lovely.”
“Thank you.”

He pulled out a pack of cigarettes after I had lead him outside. I watched him smoke from a safe distance, not wanting the stench of cigarettes on me. I couldn’t just leave him there. How would he get back into the station?

His conversation turned dark. Tormented stories of how he couldn’t find a girlfriend, how women had left him, how he was all alone, how he didn’t have anybody, how he really wanted someone to be around. I did my best to reassure him. I threw positives and upsides and silver linings his way. But I guess there’s no cheering someone whose sight has been robbed from them by a gunshot wound to the head.

I guess he’d been to prison before.
I guess that’s where he got his tattoos.

I felt very uncomfortable.

“You’re at the butt,” I pointed out.
“Oh!” He tossed the cigarette he’d been dragging on to the ground. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Don’t burn yourself.”

When an announcement blared over the speaker that my train was now boarding, perhaps I sounded too eager to get him on his way and back to a handicapped bench back in the station because he could not stop apologizing profusely for the dark turn our conversation had taken. I reassured him, again, that all was well, not wanting a sad person to continue feeling sad, and not wanting to have had a part in making him feel that way. I pitied him in a sense, but …

There was just no polite way of excusing myself from conversation with him. With a normal person — a seeing person — visual cues can sort of clue a person in to when you’re not feeling enthralled by conversation or quite up to chit chat. But with this man, it was not the same. I couldn’t just excuse myself. And if I could have, I didn’t know how to approach the subject verbally without offending him or possibly sending him into a weeping puddle of tears, yet another woman to add to the pile of those who he claims have rejected him.

After depositing him in his seat and bidding him goodbye (he tried to get my number, but I made some sort of excuse like, “I actually don’t use a cellphone, I’m sorry, you can Google me?”), I found myself rushing off as quickly as possible to make my train, feeling more and more relieved with each step of my getaway.

Guilt.
Pity.
I didn’t know what to feel.

I just knew, after boarding my train and sinking into my seat, that I was glad I could see, and glad to be away from someone who, although blind, made me feel trapped.

~ Cheri