Image by xeeliz via Flickr
Written by Karen D. Swim
Stress. Sometimes the mere mention of the word can shoot your blood pressure and heart rate up a few points. However, stress can be good, bad or neutral. The American Institute of Stress has this to say about stress:
“Increased stress increases productivity – up to a point, after which things rapidly deteriorate, and that level also differs for each of us. It’s much like the stress or tension on a violin string. Not enough produces a dull raspy sound and too much an irritating screech or snaps the string – but just the correct degree of stress creates a beautiful tone.
Similarly, we all have to find the right amount of stress that permits us to make pleasant music in our daily lives. You can learn how to utilize and transform stress so that it will make you more productive and less self-destructive.” -Paul J. Rosch, M.D., F.A.C.P., President, The American Institute of Stress
Now, if you’re like me most often you associate stress with the “irritating screech” and not a beautiful tone. I liked the idea of a beautiful tone and it got me thinking about good and bad stress in my own life.
When my husband was diagnosed with cancer, stress became part of the package. Like most, I handled most days just fine but there were moments – making coffee but forgetting to put the coffee pot on the burner, bursting into tears at the pharmacy babbling about Chinese food and sleep and scooping fish into a bucket after an aquarium leak – that definitely fall into the irritating SCREECH category. In the heat of the moment my body felt like a string ready to snap. However, once the string snapped, the tension dissolved.
In fact, as my husband looked on in befuddlement after the coffee incident, I laughed. He really thought I was perfect. Poor thing it was quite a revelation to discover he was wrong! The falling apart at the pharmacy though it stunned those who looked on helped me to breathe again. From that point on, I scheduled six minute mini-breakdowns to, you know keep the strings loose.
Bad stress has taught me that we cannot entirely avoid stress in life but we can manage it. By acknowledging the circumstances that are causing stress and allowing ourselves to break down, ask for help, accept the prayers that are offered, we can tone the screeching down to a hum.
Have you ever anxiously anticipated a happy event like walking down the aisle, a child graduating from college, or maybe a visit from an old friend? Do you remember the tingly, ball of energy that encompassed your body? You may have been on edge, but in a good way. Guess what? Yep, you got it that was good stress! Good stress often fires me up and helps me to get projects done or fuels new ideas for business. My body and mind exert just the right amount of force to create beautiful music.
In the world today, there are plenty of external forces that could push us into the red alarm zone of stress. We have little control over many of those forces but we can reduce the tension on our strings. For starters, we can can tune out the incessant negativity. We can also balance the harmony with good vibes from other sources. Take a walk, call a friend, turn off the news, play with the cat or dog, anything to add sweet sounds to the orchestra of your life. I rather like the idea of beautiful music and plan to focus on adjusting my own tension levels so that my stress is productive rather than destructive.
This post is an entry for the Middle Zone Musings Group Writing Project, What I Learned From Stress. So, what about you, what have you learned from stress? Feel free to contribute an entry to the group writing project (you have until midnight October 12th) or offer your thoughts in the comment box below. Hey, and if you have any happy thoughts to you know balance the stress, feel free to share. 🙂