Don’t you just wish you could control your life so you didn’t have stress beating you down all the time? Let’s be real, there always will be “stuff” that happens in life outside our control. It is how we respond to this stress that make the difference in how we live.
Stress comes in a variety of forms. It could be a loved who has been diagnosed with some illness, or perhaps you aren’t feeling so well and you are waiting for tests to be done. It could be a huge, unexpected bill that comes in the mail, or a phone call to say your child is in trouble at school. Perhaps you are going for a job interview and the car breaks down on the way, or you planned a family holiday and then lost your job.
When the stress event occurs, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol as part of your body’s fight-or-flight response. We never were intended to live with high levels of cortisol every day as it can physically traumatize your brain. We are told living with a consistently high cortisol level can damage brain cells permanently. We are programmed so stress is bad for us. But perhaps part of the problem is how we react to the stress. Being stressed about stress!
Yes, too much stress is not a good thing, but living with no stress isn’t good, either. We need our minds to be challenged with problem solving. It stimulates us to look for the good, find solutions and try new things. It gets us out of our routines and enlarges our comfort zone. Your brain cells run on chemicals. Just like constantly cranking up a car battery will drain it, depleting the spark that ignites the engine, we can lose our mental spark, too. But just as a car battery needs the spark to start, running the car builds the battery back up. Balance – it is always about balance. Starting the battery drains it, but running the car builds it.
It is not a single event that causes a stress breakdown – it is the compounding of stressful events. Stress comes when you are not mentally prepared for how to handle the event. I have been involved in fire defense training because we live in a bush fire area. The repetition and practice builds the ability for knowing how to cope should a bush fire occur. This knowledge removes the “stress” of the situation even though, should a fire occur, I am sure the pulse would speed up dramatically as the learned response routine kicks in. Not knowing what to do causes fear and internal trauma, asking yourself “What if?” “What now? RESULT? You feel overwhelmed. You can’t concentrate. Your emotions become fragile. You panic. You lose your ability to think because you are out of control. You cry or yell at people without even thinking about it. You lose your temper over small things that aren’t as they “should” be.
If you don’t learn how to handle stress it could cost you your life! Stress accelerates your risk for damage to your heart’s arteries, which invites heart attacks and can cut blood circulation to your brain as well. That, in turn, can lead to early dementia and even death. Prior preparation prevents poor performance!
You simply can’t win when your brain won’t cooperate. So if you have a variety of ways to handle different kinds of stress, you will minimize the effect of the stress. Don’t be so much in love with plan A that you can’t utilize plan B or plan C or even plan D! You may even find by looking back that plan D was superior to plan A after all.
Another way to be prepared for stress is being physically ready by eating the right foods. Eat foods that feed the brain and nervous system so you have plenty of nutrients stored in your cells for when stress demands a withdrawal. Take a food-sourced vitamin to be sure you are compensating for any deficiency in the food you eat. Drink plenty of water to keep the brain hydrated and exercise to keep the body fit. Maintain healthy relationships with friends who you love and who love you. Read books that keep your mind in a positive frame of mind and associate with people who are lifters, not leaners. But most of all, call on a higher power, for me that is God, to help you, sustain you, give you the wisdom and the strength you need to overcome any situation.
It seems to me the “events” of our life, those events that caused us stress at the time, can sometimes be our best teachers along the pathway of our personal development. So, when you are in “stress,” see if you can find the lesson in it and embrace it instead of resisting it. You will come out the other side stronger, wiser, and with a higher quality of character.