Keeping the Beast at Bay

I understand the nature of the beast. I know it’s weaknesses, and it knows mine. Sometimes, at night, it shears at my mind and intrudes upon my rest as if it were an 8mm flicker show on the insides of my eyelids, keeping me awake at night. This sleeplessness weakens me further and makes me vulnerable to it’s brutal nature the next day, and the next. It wants me to suffer—to fail. I know it cannot be killed but it must be battled year in and year out. If it makes me angry, I grow weaker. If it makes me feel helpless, it weakens me further. If I fail to keep it at bay, it starts to take from me. It will take my family and friends. It will take my job and income. If I give in to the beast, it will consume all that I am. You all, as humans on this Earth, also know this beast—it is commonly referred to as, Stress.

Life is stressful. You spend your life digging a proverbial hole trying to find gold nuggets of happiness and a sense of accomplishment, and often times feel as if there is nothing to show for it at the end of the day other than a sore back. You work for money, pay your bills, run out of money, and work some more. You clean your house, you feed your kids, your kids wreck your house and then they ask you for a snack. Life is hectic, crazy, unfair and often times, unbearable. But, that’s life. Stress is unavoidable, but how we manage our stress is completely a matter of choice and routine. We cannot control what happens to us or how we “feel” about what happens; however, we can affect the outcome of a situation by altering our response both emotionally and physically. I will give you an example.

You are driving down a very crowded highway and someone cuts you off, forcing you to maneuver in a way that makes you miss your exit. Immediately your emotions go into overdrive. You are angry! I mean, really, really angry! What thoughts run through your mind? “He did that on purpose,” “how dare he,” or perhaps you throw up an obscene finger gesture and tail-gate him for the next mile until you get off the next exit. Now, ask yourself, did your reaction to someone else’s lack of consideration for your feelings do anything to improve your mood? Do you honestly feel better because you yelled and screamed at the guy who cut you off? It is doubtful that you do. In fact, you are probably going to dwell on it for a while because there was no real resolution. You will even gripe to your friends, family, and co-workers about it. You are likely never going to see that guy again and your anger with him will never be satisfied. Now, what if you just considered how thankful you are that the other driver’s lack of attention or consideration didn’t kill you in a massive pile of metal, fire, and tires. Is it possible that the other driver merely made a mistake? Is it possible that he is having a worse day than you are? Breathe, and let it go. Get on with your day and you will see how easy it is to forget that it even happened. No dwelling. Hell, you aren’t even mad anymore. That is an example of controlling the outcome of an event that is out of our control.

Basically, our brains work in a very predictable pattern (contrary to popular belief). Something happens, we have a certain feeling or feelings about it then, we react. We cannot control what happens and we can’t control how we feel about it (right away), but we can control what we do about it. Now, I don’t expect anyone to read this and immediately become a person who is invincible to aggravations but, I do think that with practice and patience, this could be the key to a less stressful life. I mean, the stress will still be there but, the way you handle it will be much better and will leave you feeling less stressed.

There is something to be said about acceptance. You cannot stop a hurricane, but you can make preparations, and brace for impact. After it’s over, you could walk around dwelling over the destruction, or you could start cleaning it up. Accept that bad things happen. Accept that there is nothing you can do to control much of what may happen. Understand that your reactions could make it worse, or make it better. If you react with anger, you are likely only going to get angrier. Then, the likelihood of a positive resolution is reduced. React positively, or even indifferently, and you are more likely to accept the outcome as “it is what it is” and move on.

Who really matters? Whenever my ex-wife calls or texts me to talk to me about something, it’s never good. She generally wants something from me, or she just wants to be a bitch. She is quite literally the most infuriating person in my life but, when she calls or texts with snide remarks, I tend to blow them off and not feed into her bull shit. Sure, I get angry because as ex-spouses, we go right to each other’s spines. However, I have come up with my stock response, whether by text or phone, that gets me through the stressful occasions when I have to deal with her, “whatever you say.” That is my “ex-wife” mechanism. I know that if I allow myself to act out of anger, it is only going to continue to fuel the fire and get nowhere. So, why bother? If I bothered to deal with her in the same manner and contempt she deals with me, I would only be doing so to cater to my ego and pride, which are unimportant in regards to people I find unimportant. She is mother to two of my children, so as such, I am required to maintain a somewhat professional relationship, past that, I don’t give a shit. So, if I don’t give a shit about that, why am I going to care about the guy who cut me off, or the lady at the toll booth who gives me an attitude, or a waitress who doesn’t get it all right every time? I hope you are all catching what I’m throwing.

Spirituality is a big part of stress relief or management. It is important to recognize the fact that spirituality is not merely about religion, but it is the other way around. Religion can be a part of spirituality, but spirituality is far more than a particular religious belief. Even atheists have spirituality. I think that it is merely a way of maintaining emotional wellness. Whether it is by reading a book, watching a movie, calling a friend or family member, or exploring a creative outlet, everyone should have something to assist them in maintaining their spiritual health. Honestly, I fix up my house and I write this blog. They make me feel good about myself and give me focus to deal with the mountains of stress that are in my life. Also, it provides me with a way to live and advocate my personal values and beliefs. This, in turn, allows me to improve my performance as a husband, father, and member of the work force, as well as increase the quality of my relationships with my family and friends. I am somewhat religious, but I am supremely spiritual in that I do what I can to make sure my emotional well-being is taken care of.

I am not saying it is wrong to get angry. For anyone who has read some of my blogs, it is very easy to see that I can get angry and take up residence on a soap box for a good long rant. Having said this, remember what is important. I get angry at the economy, politicians, American society and its failure to hold itself accountable for the multitude of problems facing our nation. I get angry at bad parents because they are raising more bad parents, and so on and so forth. I get angry at many things, but they are things that I feel as an American and as a citizen of the earth, I have a right to get angry about. Also, I can do something about it. I concede, I cannot do much, but I hope that I am at least advocating awareness of the issues to some degree. Maybe some will agree, most won’t, but this is my creative outlet, so if you don’t like it, oh well. I’m not mad at you.

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