Staying Stress Free

by Trudy Despain
(last updated March 13, 2012)

No one will ever live stress free. Maybe my three year old but even he has to deal with siblings taking his toys and the dog stealing his toast during breakfast. We all deal with stress, some more than others. To quote singer and songwriter Vivian Green, "Life is not about waiting for the rain to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain!"

Stress can actually be a positive motivator. There is the kind of stress that is thrilling and exciting in small doses. It is called acute stress. Too much acute stress wears us out over time. When a skier is standing on the edge of a black diamond run on the first snow of the season, he is feeling a rush of stress in the form of adrenaline. As the day wears on and the same black diamond run is starting to take a physical toll on the skier, the exhilarating stress becomes physically taxing and the skier tires more easily. A simple night of sleep and relaxing and the skier is ready for another day of excitement.

Chronic stress is the opposite of acute stress. This is the kind of stress that ages us before our time and sucks the joy out of life. Chronic stress is caused by situations where there seems to be no escape. Trials such as a terminal, slowly progressing illness of a loved one or an abusive home-life are so stressful that the sufferer gives up trying to find a way out and simply deals with the daily struggles.

To recognize acute stress in your life, take a step back and think about how many times you had to solve an immediate crisis today. When those crises happened, how did you deal with them? Did you panic or become irritable? Maybe you got a minor stomach ache or experienced a bit of a headache. These are common, normal responses to daily stresses depending on the severity of the crisis. But was your response to the crisis one that relieved or intensified the stress? When the kids are late for school and no amount of prodding and motivating is getting them moving do you resort to yelling and adult tantrums or do you calmly explain the need to hurry and offer a consequence if the child chooses to be tardy? The calm response is a stress alleviating solution but it usually requires practice.

Learning how to calmly and positively deal with acute stress in daily life will help keep additional stress in check by not responding to a crisis in a destructive manner.

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