Stress is an emotion associated with anything, and these days, seemingly everything. Unless you are unconscious or in a coma, everyday living, plus politics, COVID, and mask-wearing, equals s-t-r-e-s-s.
Stress is normal, and it looks and acts differently in each person. Fear is often at the core—fear of poverty, disease, injury, death, conflict, rejection, natural disaster, violence, etc. Even positive, exciting activities can be stressful. Imagine a high school basketball player shooting a free-throw in a tied game with one second left on the clock. Missing the shot would cause more stress than being the game’s hero, but the young athlete likely feels future pressure to perform even if the ball swishes for a victory.
My favorite illustration of stress is the Hang in there, Baby poster where a cat hangs onto a tree branch with extended claws, terrified eyes, and a distorted face. What is more severe than the cat’s visible trauma is the accompanying hidden stress —possible shallow breathing, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, unclear thinking, tense muscles, and headaches.
The United States, on this Friday after the election, is over-stimulated with noise, conflict, bizarre theories, and yes, fear. How could anyone expect to be stress-free?
The serenity prayer helps me: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
As far as the election, I did what I could and voted, limited TV and social media, and avoided controversial political conversations. If we don’t control stress, it will control us, and we can experience those severe symptoms. I know for sure, I have zero control of others, and if I can recognize when feeling overwhelmed, I can sit, think, breathe, and let my stress cool down. For your solutions, ask, “What did I do that worked when I felt like this before?”
For myself, I know I need to get outside and walk or bike. Talking with friends helps me to process what I am feeling. When possible, I don’t lock myself into specific times for arriving, but say something like, “I’ll be there around 2:00, give or take ten minutes.” I keep my house picked up, so I don’t have to worry about someone stopping by unexpected. I say, “No,” to events that would overload my day. I keep my gas tank on the top half of full. The majority of foods I choose are colorful and not fried. Lastly, I try to get enough sleep, and I write to you every week.
How about you?
We can manage, but we cannot avoid stress. We can make little changes in our routine and be more mindful of our choices.
Closing with wise words from a friend as we said goodbye today, “Be kind to yourself.”
Until the next time: Live while you live.
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