Stress (aka: Stresssss)

Oops…I just caught myself massaging the back of my neck. Again. And chewing on my pinky fingers. Again. Which may not seem like a big deal to lots of you, but to me, it means one thing.

STRESS.

Stress Sources

Wait, what stress? I thought I was just coasting along, my usual relaxed self. (Okay, correction: Relaxed for a Type-A personality. Relaxed for an INTJ). But we all have our own little signals that tell us when our bodies are experiencing a lot of stress. Some people overeat when stressed. Others smoke, or drink too much, have bouts of insomnia, or a myriad of other physical or psychological symptoms that spring up when our plates are just too full.

So what should we do when we recognize these symptoms? According to the American Psychological Association , we should identify the sources of our stress. Hmm, let’s see…

My oldest teen has caught a nasty case of Senioritis — that annoying and highly contagious bug that high school seniors often catch this time of year, when they feel so invincible that they slack off in school, convinced that they won’t fail. So I get to take off the sweet, cookie-baking mommy hat and put on the steel-edged hat of The Enforcer.

Stress.

My ex-husband has decided to initiate court proceedings to have my child support officially decreased, thanks to my shiny new full-time job. Despite the new job, however, it has been a challenge to keep the budget balanced while raising three teen/tweens as a full-time single parent and saving for college expenses. So a potentially big income cut would be a serious blow. I’ve just begun hunting for a second part-time job – something to help make ends meet once our household income drops. Bye-bye free time.

Stress

The older teen just headed off on an expensive school trip with his band — the only trip I’ve been able to send him on for all of high school. Senior prom tickets are really expensive, too. So is his recent dental work. Also, my teen daughter, the former gymnast, has fallen in love with dance. “Hey mom, can I take a second dance class at the studio?” And the twelve-year-old keeps outgrowing his clothes. And did I mention how much it costs to feed three kids this age nutritious, homemade meals filled with fresh vegetables? Oh boy. Kids are expensive.

Stress.

I just finished a bout of medical testing  (an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, and even a special endoscopy where I got to swallow this cool miniature camera). The doctor found nothing, except for signs of gastritis. Gastritis which sprung up around a year ago, and was likely triggered by — you guessed it —

Stress.

Effect of Stress on the Body

It is astonishing what stress can do to our bodies, even when we think we’re handling it well. Kind of stresses me out to think about it. Luckily, there are things we can do to help us manage the way we deal wih stress. Here are some great suggestions from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Regular physical activity
  • Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi or getting a massage
  • Keeping a sense of humor
  • Socializing with family and friends
  • Setting aside time for hobbies, such as reading a book or listening to music

I’m pretty good with most of these, especially the sense of humor part. Very important stuff. But I still kinda suck at the socializing part. But know what? Today at work, I got to spend lots of time socializing with coworkers (in between moments of working hard, of course). And know what? It’s like a magic pill for this stress thing. Despite the enormous pressures I’m feeling, I’ve barely reached up to massage my neck or chew my fingers all afternoon.

Uh-oh — trying to come up with a nice, neat way to end this post is only adding to my stress. So I’ll just tip-toe out of here and hope none of you notice. Time to go and…

DE-STRESS

 

Make_Small_Talk (aka: Interacting With Real Live Humans)

One of the hardest things about dealing with real, live humans is small talk.

Seriously. I mean, what is the deal with small talk? It’s like standing around nibbling cheap, store-bought appetizers instead of sitting down to a delicious, homemade main course.

Dilbert Small Talk Participate

You never know when you will be faced with this dreaded interaction. There you are, sitting in your cubicle, or riding in an elevator, or innocently heating up your leftovers in the break room, when bam! Another person shows up. This can be just about anybody – a stranger, a coworker, your boss, your boss’s boss. No matter who appears, you have little choice but to hit the F5 key and run the program, Make_Small_Talk.

It typically goes something like this:

Me:                        Hi, how was your weekend?

Person:                Pretty good. Yours?

Me:                        Not too bad. Busy with kids and stuff.

Person:                Yeah, me too. But I got a lot done.

Water Cooler Small Talk

Once in a while, I am tempted to mix things up a little, just to keep things interesting. Maybe something like:

Person:              How was your weekend?

Me:                        Great! I got a lot done, and left no evidence behind, so they’ll never catch me…

Or I could be like those people who give you waaaaay more information that you ever wanted to know, like:

Person:                How was your weekend?

Me:                        Well, it was fine until I started throwing up. I must have clogged the toilet six times! Then I had to go see the doctor, and he said I might have the Avian Flu or Ebola or something, so they had to draw blood and check my stool samples for parasites and bacteria. Then I developed this awful wet cough. I mean, listen – *hack hack!*

My two favorite alternatives to making small talk are:

  1. Wear earbuds 100% of the time and pretend that I don’t notice when others are talking to me.
  2. Avoid all places where people may be present, thus avoiding all unnecessary human interaction.

One problem with those alternatives, however, is that you may never get to know important details about other people, like what their favorite sports teams are, or how many kids they have, so that you can then inquire about those details the next time you make small talk. Also, no one will have any idea who you are, so then you’ll never win the popularity contest and earn a promotion at work.

(Make_Small_Talk = Brownie Points + 10).

I guess that making small talk is just one of those rules of being a grownup. Kind of like cleaning out the refrigerator or making medical appointments. No matter how cumbersome it may be, and no matter how much it irks your inner INTJ, you just have to grin and get through it. And if you’re lucky, maybe those appetizers will eventually lead to a main course.

 

 

Gold to Silver (aka: Time and her Sister, Change)

Time is a flowing river…

Bah! That is not an accurate metaphor at all. After all, we can build a dam to staunch a river’s flow. But there is no technology in existence that is able to stop the flow of Time.

And Time, of course, never goes anywhere without her twin sister, Change. Together, the two make a brutal pair. Their constant, onward march affects everyone and everything in their path. And oh, how we fear them! How we loathe their very existence. We desperately wish to hold back Time, to force it in the opposite direction. We fight Change with every ounce of our strength.

old way new way

But we are not strong enough.

Everything falls to Change. Like leaves on a tree, people change. Children grow to become adults, and as adults, we grow fruit, we change, and we fall. Our bodies succumb to the weight of old age.

Ideas change. Society changes. The words and labels which were widely accepted by one generation are deemed offensive by the next. We protest. We struggle to hold on to the old ways of thinking, the old ways of living life that worked so well for us. But Change is a thief who steals gold and replaces it with silver. We will fight her. We will wield our swords, our guns, our ballots. We will raise our most powerful weapons in an effort to hold Change at bay.

And sometimes, we succeed.

But never for long. We forget that Change has a fiercely loyal sister who will always sweep past and overpower us, despite our best efforts. In the end, everything changes.

So what can we do? How do we keep ourselves from falling into despair, knowing that as time continues forward, nothing will stay the same? We have only two choices. We can attempt to trick Change. If Change is inevitable, then perhaps we can convince her that Path B is a better direction than Path A. We can manipulate the direction of things to come by forcing the changes we wish to see. Sometimes this works, and the results can be brilliant. Or horrific.

Steven Hawking Intelligence

Even better, we can remember what we as humans do best. We adapt. The stronger we are, the smarter we are, the faster we adapt to life’s changes. We do not fear Time and Change. We do not run from them, screaming. We do not waste our energy holding them back. Instead, we accept them as our friends. We remember that Time and Change can help us to forget the trauma of the past so that we can find joy in the future. That they often bring along friends, like Maturity, Wisdom, and Grace. We remember that Time and Change can help to heal disease, end suffering, and open doors of opportunity which were once locked to us. Change can be good. Time can be kind. It is all a matter of perspective.

Darwin adaptibility

For better or for worse, everything changes. It is hard sometimes to watch as our precious gold is transformed to silver. But that silver will eventually transform into to gold. It is only a matter of Time.