GOTTA GOTTA GET UP TO GET DOWN
By: Lauren Anderson
“1…2…3…4 Get your booty (woman) on the floor.
Gotta gotta get up to get down.
Gotta gotta get up to get down.” – Coolio.
It’s a funk tradition older than funk itself. You can’t get down on the dance floor unless you get up outta your chair first. I mean, it’s just science.
And even if you haven’t thought about Coolio in awhile, (#neverforget) his immortal words still ring true today. And not just out at the the club either. I call it my Coolio Theory. Or you can think of it as like a yin and yang, fire and ice, salt n’ peppa type of thing. I don’t care. Essentially, it’s doing one thing to achieve the opposite result.
Sometimes in order to speed up, I gotta slow down. If I feel myself getting frantic, I stop. Take a deep breath, and try to refocus all that frantic energy into an intentional force. Intentional energy moves faster than frantic energy because it’s more usable. It’s focused instead of flailing. It’s direct instead of scattered. Intentional energy gets you there faster.
Sometimes to free up my mind, I have to limit my options. It’s true! In writing, in art, and in all areas creative… if my options are too vast, sometimes it’s hard to get started. That’s why writing prompts can be so helpful. I like to think of it like this: If I gave a sheet of blank paper to ten 3rd graders and said, “Draw anything”… 9 out of 10 of those kids would respond with, “What should I draw?”
But if I gave that same sheet of paper to that same group of kids and said, “Draw the coolest thing you saw last summer.” They would think for a minute, and get to drawing. And the papers I would get back would be wildly different and interesting. A trip to the beach, fireworks, a severed cat head on the railroad tracks… now we’re getting somewhere! I’ve limited their options to free up their minds!
And sometimes in order to calm my body I’ve got to move my body.
Case in point. When I was in college, there was about a year when I was dealing with really bad anxiety. It was so difficult. I felt trapped in my own skin. Unable to regulate my breathing. Unable to think straight, or function at all.
My therapist gave me a list of tips and tricks to help me regulate these awful experiences and get under control faster. The one that always stuck out to me the most was, “Get up and move into a different room. Go for a walk. Change locations. Change your current situation.”
For those of you familiar with anxiety attacks, you know sometimes the last thing you want to do is get up and go for a walk. Sometimes you feel paralyzed, like you can’t move at all. But after practicing these techniques, I found that the minute I could feel a panic attack coming on, if I got my body moving, I would have a WAY easier time regulating myself.
Did it cure it altogether? No. But it helped me manage them. And that was a godsend.
* * *
So cut back to present day. Things in my life have been clipping along okay. Besides some car issues that are going to cost some serious cash, my stupid tendinitis in my wrist that is taking FOREVER to heal, and my daily battle with the sugar monster, I seem to be trucking along this summer. Which is good. And I am so thankful for that grace. Because if you’ll recall from other blogs, you know I can get pretty depressed this time of year.
But there are people that I care about that are really going through it lately. And I want to be there for them. In any way I can. And since I feel equipped to help, I have made myself very available to hopefully do exactly that—and help!
But after about a month of helping, and being on hardcore helper duty, I can start to feel the stress pile on a bit. I am empathic in nature, so it’s hard to see someone hurting and not hurt as well. And even though I know it’s not about me, I can feel it start to affect me.
The last thing I want to do is not help anymore. I like to help. I like being useful. I like being a safe place for people that need it. I wanna be that port in the storm.
And I really don’t want to be a douchebag and put any stress back on the people that are leaning on me, so what’s a person to do? I hop in my rental car and start driving. And then it hits me.
Well DUH ANDERSON. There’s a reason therapists also go to therapy. All that stuff has to come out somewhere. And since I’m not a therapist, I drive to the one place I can think of that can help me stay helpful.
I walk in and the music is pumping. There is no official class going on, it’s Open Gym time. A time when Solcana opens it’s doors and lets members use their facilities to work on whatever you want. I’ve never really come in like this before, I like the structure of the classes… but I’ve got to burn off some stress. I can feel myself getting frazzled (my least favorite feeling), and I want focus and calm.
In other words—Coolio’s words— I gotta gotta get up to get down.
I throw together a quick list of light movements. I still can’t lift anything over fifteen pounds, so I stick to stuff I know will keep me moving. Stuff I feel comfortable doing without the watchful eye of a coach. Stuff that will calm my body and my brain.
I know I don’t have to go super hard for it to be affective either. I’ve been learning that in endurance class. A steady consistent pace, can do wonders for your grey matter. And I’m reminded of what my doctor told me way back in the day. “A moderate 3 mile walk can do the same thing for your brain as 10 milligrams of Prozac.”
It takes about 40 minutes to get through that list 4 times. Between the tunes, friendly chatter with folks at the gym, and rocking my body— can feel my mood shifting. I feel better. I feel calmer. I feel stronger. I’m sweating and it honestly felt like I just pushed a huge RESET button on my brain.
And as I wave goodbye to people and head back into the world, I know I made the right choice for myself today. Which leads me to the last part of the Coolio Theory.
Sometimes in order to take better care of others, I have to take care of myself first.
Just like in an airplane. They always tell you to put your mask on before you put one on your kid. You can’t care for a child if you’ve blacked out from lack of oxygen. A surgeon can’t do surgery with a broken arm. A flower cannot bloom if the stem is broken. I cannot feed the hungry if I have no bread to give…mmmmmm bread….You get the idea.
In other words, I know I have less capacity to give if I am also at a deficit. That’s why little moments of self care: like a bath, or a workout, or talking with someone else not directly involved in the situation can be so helpful. Anything to take care of myself, so I’m strong enough to do what I like to do, and be there for the people I love.
And that’s the Coolio theory. Get up to get down.
As counterintuitive as his iconic hair, but somehow it all just works.