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Anxiety, Stress, Worry: Are You Carrying Too Much? (Lessons From a Chipmunk)

Carrying too much stress

So, I received an important message today…

From a chipmunk.

See, I’ve been carrying a shitload of stress recently. The kind that ties your stomach in knots with a flush of adrenaline. The kind that wakes you up at 2:00 AM and you can’t go back to sleep because your brain won’t STFU. The kind that makes you feel so overwhelmed that you can't focus. Certainly, this anxiety is exacerbated by my 51-year-old pre-menopausal hormones - but damn, I’ve got some stuff on my plate right now.

In the summer, I like to do a little morning yoga on my back patio when the air is still cool.

This is my morning view from my yoga mat:

Yoga and meditation

About our chipmunks:

I have to insert a little background about our chipmunks. They have been living in our back yard for a couple of years now. They have holes and tunnels like a palace around our patios, they steal our tomatoes, and they vex our dog. We have watched them with delight, cussed them for thieving our tomatoes, and worried about what destruction they might be wreaking that we can’t see.

Nature and spirituality

Last Spring, this guy would stand on my garden cairn and “bark” for a mate all day long. We marveled at the biological force that drove him to build a nest and start calling for a mate without actually knowing the purpose behind his instinct.

And a few weeks ago, we noticed two new baby chipmunks hanging out beside the hole: Twins!

The chipmunk family is always busy running up and down our path and sometimes skirting right past the dog, but they usually avoid us.

Here's my story:

So today, I was sitting on my yoga mat, to which I had brought all my stress and anxiety. Earlier this morning, I had thrown a small prayer skyward, asking for guidance and maybe a message that would give me some comfort. As I began my yoga practice with a brief meditation, I reminded myself of what I always tell my clients: If prayer is talking to God, then meditation is shutting up and listening.

I closed my eyes and tuned in to my breathing; I noticed the neighborhood noises all around me and the birds singing; and I felt the breeze on my skin and the humidity in the morning air. As my body calmed and my brain quieted, suddenly, I had an overwhelming sense that I was not alone – that something was coming my way and I should open my eyes now!

And just as I opened my eyes there was a baby chipmunk about 4 feet in front of me – eyes wide with fear and cheeks bulging so huge it was comical. We both looked at each other with surprise for a moment, then he took one step back and started spitting a pile of seeds onto the path. He backed up another 2 steps and emptied the rest of the seeds from his mouth, turned around and ran down the path, yelling and scolding and warning everyone about the danger at the top of the path!

- To which I responded by laughing out loud while I watched him run back and forth, alerting the neighborhood! And I yelled to him that I was sorry and I didn’t mean to scare him!

Once the commotion settled and I moved on to my yoga practice, I briefly wondered if that was the message I had requested? If it was, I didn’t yet know what it meant.

So I moved through my warm ups,

my sun salutations,

my balance poses and standing asanas,

my cool down stretches,

and into savasana - where I allowed my mind, body, and spirit to rest again in the cool, humid air.

And that’s when it came to me:

That chipmunk was carrying so much (just like me), but when it came down to it, he had to prioritize. He had to lay it all down and take care of himself. He couldn’t go screeching down the path to safety carrying all he had.

It occurred to me that I couldn’t carry everything at once. That I have to tackle one issue at a time. That everything I am "carrying" and worrying about right now, isn’t what is truly important in my life.

Later, I told my husband about my experience and we laughed. Then he said, “You have to write a blog about it!” I didn’t take him seriously at first, but then I rolled the idea around and decided I might give it a shot. I thought it might be cool to share a picture of the pile of seeds ol’ Chippy spit out – it had to be a quarter cup he had in his cheeks!

But when I went back outside, the pile was gone.

Lessons from nature

But (and I’m not making this up) there was one seed on the corner of my yoga mat that was NOT there before!

Was it an offering to the "Great Buddha" who sometimes sits at the top of the path - in hopes of safe passage in future trips with cheeks full?

Or perhaps a message for me – a reminder to take one thing at a time, stop trying to carry so much, and pay attention to what is most important.

Of course, I Googled "chipmunk symbolism." This is what I found (in a nutshell):

  • Chipmunks are a symbol that something wonderful is coming your way, something that delights your heart and makes you smile and laugh…

  • When the chipmunk appears for you, synchronicity is in the air and it is an opportune time to ask for a wish…

  • Chipmunk teaches that there are always guides around you, ready to help - but you must ask for assistance. And the instant that you do, you will feel the essence and energy of their presence and can begin communicating your requests.

Lessons from a chipmunk, summarized:

1. You can't carry it all at once. First things first. Lay it down and prioritize.

2. Remember what is important in your life. Gratitude for the bigger picture helps put the worries of the day into perspective.

3. Quiet your mind. There is wisdom to be found in solitude.

4. You don't have to carry it alone. There is guidance available if you ask.

Thanks Mr. Chippy, I needed to hear that today.

-Valerie Allen, MEd, LPCC

If you would like to talk about all the shit you're carrying, I can help.

Please contact me at or 513-317-8113.


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