The other day I reblogged a post someone had written on seven things to do to reduce or minimize stress. You can read the original post, here
We all know that stress is a fact of life, right? All kinds of stressors exist, some viewed as positive, many perceived as negative. According to this article, found on the Mind Tools website, about the effects of long-term stress, “… the most useful and widely accepted definition of stress (mainly attributed to Richard S. Lazarus) is this: Stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that ‘demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.’ In less formal terms, we feel stressed when we feel that ‘things are out of control.'”
Contained within the article is a stress scale test, which has been around since 1967 and I recall taking back in 1990 in one of my adjusting to college courses – The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.
My current score is well above the 300 mark. This doesn’t surprise me and probably doesn’t surprise those of you who have become familiar with my life, personally or online. If I was a gambler I would bet that many of the people I know and interact with fall in the moderate to high risk stress categories.
As Mayhem from Allstate gleefully dramatizes, “Life comes at you fast,” and regardless of how we prepare and plan, things and people beyond our control can and do derail our plans and disturb our peace. It just happens.
I’ve been thinking about stress and what triggers it for me. I really have been examining it in myself and in those around me a lot recently. Especially as part of my participation in the Circle of Security parenting group I participated in during May and June.
I have come to realize and accept that like, “beauty is as beauty does,” so too, is stress.
What? Stress is as stress does.
For example, a major event happened at the Opportunity Conference, which was a stress trigger, however the stress was minimized by how I reacted and responded to it. So, the stress effects of the event were minimized.
About six hours into the conference, there was a break and transition in what was happening. I was trying to figure out how to navigate to my next destination, via public transportation, with two extra bags and an original bag weighing 2-3 times what it had when I’d arrived, while dealing with what was certain to be a tired and less than cooperative Luna. The stifling, muggy, heat had taken its toll on me and I was in a fibroflare, with another 60-90 minutes left of the conference. One of the ladies at my table decided she would try to find a booster seat somewhere and give us a ride, but it wasn’t a done deal.
Lots of people were milling around in various conversations and about ten different product/information stations were being set up. Between the auditory overload, the semi-claustrophobia I have around crowds, the perceived lack of oxygen, and my pain/fatigue levels, I needed a break and escaped out the side door, which led to the back parking area, pulling out a cigarette and lighting up as I sought the company of a fellow smoker.
Just then, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a flash of pink and the bob of a golden brown pony tail disappear around the side of a car. By the time I got there, neither were visible. I rushed to the aisle in between the rows of parked cars to see that Luna was a third of the way down and moving fast. Fortunately, the direction she was moving in was toward a large play structure on the campus if the private school where the conference was being held. However, I realized that I was the only one aware of the fact my child had gone missing from the childcare area.
As I called her name, she cried out that she wanted to be alone. Then ran faster and started giggling as I chased her with my exhausted and shuffling gait.
I observed a couple of young men doing some work and called out to request their assistance. Luna had climbed to the top of the structure and was beyond my reach. The young man followed my instruction to block Luna’s escape path and I gave her the option of coming down the slide or being carried down. Since she didn’t come down on her own, she got carried down to me. Then I carried her back to the conference.
At which point I had a dilemma. I wanted to finish the conference, but needed reassurance that Luna would be cared for. I also didn’t have the energy to try to confront/deal with the childcare people, who were probably dealing with a lot of hot & cranky kids and parents. I knew that I had to say something to somebody, if for no reason other than they could plan better to prevent this kind of thing at future events.
I decided to approach the speaker and explain what had happened. She then introduced me to one of the event organizers. He was visibly shaken and mortified to hear what had happened and was completely taken aback that I wasn’t pitching a fit, yelling, screaming, and carrying on. He got his wife who was oversight for the childcare and she took over, making sure Luna was being tended to for the remainder of the conference and discovering what had actually happened for Luna to do what she did.
All was resolved and I went out and finally had my cigarette.
I’m pretty sure that 15 – 20 years ago I would have been freaking out and in a very loud voice, with very big gestures, and some impolite words I would have made certain that everyone in attendance knew what had happened. I might have acted that way two years ago, even.
Thankfully, I’ve learned a few things:
1) Kids are escape artists, especially mine. Even under the watchful eye of her hyper vigilant papa, Luna knows how to disappear. I’d forgotten to tell them that about her.
2) Throwing a hissy fit, no matter how justified and necessary it may feel, only makes things worse. Behaving badly when something goes wrong and needs to be fixed, moves the attention off of solving the problem and centers it on my behavior, making me the problem people try to manage instead of the real issue.
3) No one intentionally decides to be incompetent or do things in such a way that is guaranteed to make my life more difficult, but treating them as if that were so may change their minds. Grace and mercy go a lot farther than punishing vitriol.
4) Ask for what you need, don’t expect others to automatically recognize that you are in distress or know what to do about it. Everyone has a lot on their minds and affecting their emotions. It’s hard to see past it at times.
5) Let go of worry and fear about what could have happened. It didn’t. End if story, so stop rehearsing the story that never was.
Disclaimer: it is MUCH easier to practice these things with strangers and acquaintances, but even more critical with loved ones.
So much of our stress is about the thoughts and emotions from past events being triggered by current ones. We have to learn the difference between what we feel and what is actually happening.
What tools and methods do you use in the heat of the moment to minimize your stress? How did you learn to do that instead of freak out? Is freaking out still your first reaction? What would you do differently?