Let me say this upfront: I don't know if the following post on stress is helpful, or boring, a good read or worthless chatter. I'll appreciate any opinion or feedback you're inclined to share. My criteria for writing something like this is very simple: it either helps because you understand something in a new light, or it puts you to sleep. If it's the latter, I'm better off knowing. :)
Stress is bad. And common. Even small anoyances and irritations--a rude sales clerk, a snappish friend, a messy bathroom--can trigger the body’s stress response--affecting digestion, immunity, cognitive and sensory skills, pain threshold, even sexual drive. It comes in all forms--a dead car battery when you’re late already, a sick child when you’re due to fly to Chicago, a broken promise, a performance review by a supervisor who doesn’t like you, or even by one who does. Then add the catastrophic--the unexpected diagnosis, a job lay off, the end of a relationship.
Stress and conflict are an inevitable part of life, but the actual events that take place are only part of the problem. Your body reacts when you only think about an event or problem, even those that have not even occurred--the IRS audit, the mounting bills, the career challenge, the inevitability of death. Did you know that your mind cannot tell the difference between imagined versus real danger?
Even with effort and awareness, you can't always avoid stress. You do not have to let actual or anticipated problems dictate your mood, but that is exactly what will happen if you do not intervene in some way. It helps to know that from the moment the alarm clock goes off and your feet hit the bedroom floor, you are influenced by last night’s dreams, yesterday’s worries, by old stress and new stress. You don't start with a fresh slate unless you find a way to bypass their effects on you, and if you don't do that, your day can start badly before it even begins.
You can’t control most of the events that happen as you live your life, but you can control how you respond to them. The trick is to be able to bypass your mind, which worries about every thing, and your ego, which needs to be right. You do this by not letting stress accumulate, by not letting one difficult event spill into another, by walking away from conflict whenever you can, and by using proven stress management techniques: Yoga. Prayer. Meditation. Exercise.
Chronic worry is bad for you--especially when you worry about things that may or may not happen. Because your mind doesn't know whether your house has burned down or you are simply worrying that your house may burn down, the result can be disastrous to your physical well-being. Symptoms from colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatique, fibromalgia, and headaches have a direct link to this kind of worry overload. (Sapolsky, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, 1998)
There are many people who would tell you that stress is healthy and stress management is worthwhile. I'm not one of them. I view it a different way: I think it's best to keep a watchful eye not to let stress and worry accumulate from one day to the next. Take breaks. Take time. Remember to breathe out, not just in. And have a 2 or 3 minute technique you can count on when you need to clear your head fast. And, then, of course, live your life.......