I’m been thinking about the idea of stress since my husband came home from work last night holding onto the stressors of his day. When we are in a state of stress, we attract and, often, magnetize ourselves to other triggers. For my husband, this trigger was the snowy driveway. It wasn’t the snow, but the footprints and tire-treads laced across it that bothered him. It didn’t matter that the sun would shine the following day and melt the stubborn tracks of snow the shovel could not easily remove, it mattered only that the tracks had been made.
Now, my husband is a kind man, and hopefully he will not mind that I am using him as my example for stress. The point, after-all, that I am trying to make, is that stress is often unnecessary and irrational, except to the person experiencing it. If you type “stress” into Wikipedia, this is what comes up http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stress_(biology):
“Stress typically describes a negative condition that can have an impact on one’s Mental and physical, but it is unclear what exactly defines stress and whether or not stress is a cause, an effect, or the process connecting the two. With organisms as complex as humans, stress can take on entirely concrete or abstract meanings with highly subjective qualities, satisfying definitions of both cause and effect in ways that can be both tangible and intangible.”
I like the ambiguity in this definition, because, as it states, ambiguity seems to be inherent to the nature of stress. One of my biggest stressors is time. I loathe being late. Sometimes, if I don’t catch myself, the idea of being late sends my heart into a rapid beat, tightens my stress and causes me to be not so nice to the people in my path. These days though, I try to let stressors, like being late, act as lessons. I may not know the “cause” or root of the anxiety. I tend to believe our stressors, like our fears, are complex and deeply rooted, often compounded by lifetimes of unhappy circumstances. Yet, I know I can resist its pull.
Instead of letting the stress, which is very much like an elastic, stretch you to the point of breaking, you can step inside of its shape and examine density. Now, when I’m driving to a destination I know I am going to be late for, I ask myself these questions. What if I am late? What does that mean to me and others? How is the stress of not wanting to be late impacting me and others right now? How does it change the situation? What would happen if I wasn’t feeling this stress?
Of course there is that magnetic quality of stress, if we are in a state of stress, it’s inevitable, like in the example with my husband, that we will attract to ourselves more stressors until we make the conscious choice to let go of its hold on us. Then there is the question of rationality. Does our stress even make sense? If we can step way from the pull of the stress enough to examine its lure, we will often discover that our reaction is causing more harm to us and others than necessary. Even when we are faced with a fierce dog standing in our path, it behooves us to replace our panic with calm. The dog, like the universe of energy surrounding us, reacts and responds to our emotions.
When I replace the tendency to stress-out about being late with calm acceptance, I often find that the lights in my path change to green, the traffic eases, and I am, in the end, only a matter of minutes, if that, late. When I do the opposite, the lights stubbornly turn red at each intersection, I find there are no gaps in the traffic, my kids start fighting from the back seat, and I, well I, am miserable and stressed!
We can so easily grow accustomed to our stress and our stressors, if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have them in our lives. But stress takes a toll on us, both emotionally and physically. Too much stress in our lives, can cause our hair to turn gray (just look at a president who has been in office for 4 years) or fall out, our weight to decrease too much, or increase too much, and over time, dis-ease can start to set in, finding a vulnerable host in our unbalanced bodies.
Yet, stress, as I pointed out, is often, if not always, unnecessary. When we realize that the effects of stress do not serve us, we can start to reprogram our reactions to its triggers. Remember, the human body, like everything in nature, is constantly seeking a state of balance. In that state of balance, we find peace, health and happiness. So, next time you are in a state of stress, why not pause and ask How is this serving me? and What would happen if I let it go?