I love that I can make myself laugh. Yesterday I was cleaning my computer and found a folder called “assholeness”. I invented this word (no surprise, huh?) because I wanted a way to describe and quantitate the degree of unacceptable behavior displayed by my son’s sperm donor. Surprisingly there is nothing in the folder but I am keeping it around for the chuckle factor. I am also acutely aware that anything I put in writing may be used against me in the “un-divorce” so I’m attempting to take the high road. (attempting is the operative word, thank you very much.)
Then there are the funny things I say like, “If you dressed me like a bag of Skittles, I’d be cranky too”. And, “Do my bunions look big in these sandals?” I never thought those words would come out of this mouth but I speak the truth. I don’t much like my aging feet but they keep me dancing so at least I can outfit them in cute sandals. Or take a look at my latest Selfie! I wanted to get my shirt and sandals in the same shot and find it hysterical the way the photo came out. I feel like I look—a bloated tropical flower! I know you are now looking at my bunions. Please stop.
Visiting my Mom at the hospital I overhear the nurses debriefing during a shift change. The patient in the room next door is there because of a duck attack. What? Did they say a D-U-C-K attack? I confirm with the nurse, without looking too nosey, that indeed it was a duck attack. How much damage can a duck do? She tells me it was a pet duck but that she is prohibited by patient privacy from saying any more. I see her giggle as she leaves the room. You can’t make this stuff up. That is the stuff nightmares are made of!
It is a good thing I am better at finding humor, especially during stressful times. My default method was to stuff my emotions until I exploded! Stress impacts both our physical and mental health. Have you ever thought about the impact of “Second Hand Stress”? I hadn’t put much thought into this concept until I heard a news story regarding a study done by Sara Waters at University of California San Francisco showing that babies could not only detect when a mother was stressed, the baby also started to demonstrate “stressed behavior”. “By knowing how this happens, we can start being mindful of both what we’re putting out, but also how people around us are affecting us,” Waters said.
So are we more influenced by our “stressed out” loved ones than a stranger? Yes, in fact it was said that we are four times more likely to be influenced by the stress of a loved one, coworker, friends or a roommate than a stranger.
Trying to do more, do better, do faster while making my life look effortless, stress became my drug of choice. If I was stressed, I was important. Didn’t all successful people have stress? So my stress manifested with short tempers/yelling frenzy on one side of the spectrum versus cold and silent pursed lip/evil eyed detachment on the other side. I let all those ugly emotions come out to play. My poor boys—no wonder they often tiptoed around me or mimicked my stressed out behavior. They apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Is it possible to eliminate stress from our lives? I attended a seminar at the Anubhati Retreat Center based on this particular question. I actually thought the answer would lie somewhere in the middle; that we can eliminate MOST stress. I was wrong. We were taught that we can eliminate all stress. Say what? It took five hours but I left feeling convinced that I could live stress free.
Thoughts create emotions. AGREED.
Emotions range from positive to negative. AGREED.
Negative emotions cause stress. AGREED.
To eliminate stress, change your thinking. CRAP. DIFFICULT WORK AHEAD.
Every thought we have passes through a filter we call “perspective”. If your perspective is off kilter, your response is off kilter. (I’d like to come back to perspective in another blog as it is a topic in itself.) First of all, we are predisposed to think negatively because it is a primal response, one that was intended to help us stay alive in the cave man era. To minimize or eliminate negative thinking is to go against our hard wired nature.
Fast forward a decade and this Stressed Out Mama now has the benefit of My Girlfriend Voice plus, I am not living with the sperm donor!! I mess up, sometimes I have a whole streak of bad behavior, but I am accountable and recognize when I need to correct myself. I take care of the collateral damage by acknowledging that my actions were unhealthy and unproductive. Often I need to apologize to a loved one. It is progress not perfection!
When negative thoughts creep out of the shadows, I actually say hello and thank them for their appearance while respectfully ushering them off stage. That’s the truth – for real! These thoughts provide information. Why did “Nikki Not Good Enough” show up now? What happened today to trigger her appearance? “Penny Perfectionist” and I go way back and I don’t expect to totally dismiss her from my thinking, however, I find an alternative thought to replace her. “Bitchy Becky” is probably the one I have the least patience for so perhaps this is the area where I need the most work.
Returning to the concept of Second Hand Stress, please consider your impact on those around you, especially if you are a parent. “When parents seem too busy, secondhand stress also stops their kids from saying what’s on their minds because they feel their problems pale in comparison. Communication of our feelings is KEY to stress relief, but secondhand stress often prevents that communication from happening when it’s most needed,” says author Jonathan Friedman, founder of thestresscoach.com. This ultimately cuts short the child’s ability to feel safe emotionally, setting a faulty foundation for life. Be a healthier adult so we build a healthier future for our kids.
Like any new skill, it takes time and practice to make a hobby into a habit. The payoff is the energy I required to shape my stress then is now free to fuel other things like laugh, love and write. I am blessed for the speed bumps life gave me. If I had not slowed down, fallen down or should I say CRASHED, I wouldn’t have the fearlessness and gratitude I have today.
I would love to know your strategies for managing stress. Please share your wisdom in the comments section. Let’s hear what your Girlfriend Voice has to say! If you find this post helpful, please feel free to share it with your network of friends and family.
From the heart,
Author Note: Smoking stress artwork borrowed from the blog Innovation on Purpose. Thx!