Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sensurround Stress

Stress is said to be a major part of modern life. It gets blamed for many things... for inducing heart attacks and migraines, to exacerbating depression and leading to higher rates of suicide. Sometimes I feel a tinge of sadness for much maligned stress; in fact it's even a factor in chronic illness. It is said that stress can cause a flare up of Crohn's Disease, or worsen an existing flare. Many times patients are encouraged to learn to de-stress, as if stress were something one could magically remove from life and set aside. I often wonder if this is really possible.

Stress is all around us. I know it's a major part of my life. With 4 children it's hard not to be stressed to some extent. Add in a worrying (not worrisome!) personality, an ailing father in a neighbouring country, a PhD that is begging for attention, and a chronic condition that cries out for me to curl up and sleep in a corner... and well... it's a recipe for feeling stressed. Right out of my brains sometimes. But I think it's normal. Who doesn't have some stress at almost every point of their life? It's all around us... sensurround stress impinging on our senses at almost every turn.

How then should I approach stress? Is it an enemy to be avoided at all costs because, heaven forbid, it could make me ill? Is it an ally to be embraced because, God willing, it will spur me on to greater things? I'm not a Type A personality who thrives on stress... but if need be it does give me a push to do things I might otherwise not do, or put off doing. Certainly it gives me an adrenaline rush that reminds me I am alive and gets me going, but I do know that there are times when I have been overwhelmed by stress and my digestive system gets going too... and I'm unable to physically keep up with the demands of stress on my body and my psyche.

It's quite the fad to speak of methods of de-stressing as if they can be easily incorporated into a busy lifestyle. Yoga is good they say... I should make time for it I am told. Or maybe pilates. Or perhaps even plain and simple meditation. Not quite the "empty your mind" kind which always scares me, because I'm not sure if my mind will return once I've emptied it :) but the "think of a peaceful place" type of meditation. Well, I don't think the people who do these amazing things have ever lived in my house... where the only real chance for a peaceful meditation is at 10pm when everyone is in bed and my dear hubby and I can engage in the "shall we watch something intelligent or a nonsense movie" type of meditation.

We live in a generation of ME people... where everything revolves around the individual. It is loosely believed that if the individual is happy then those around them can be happy. In the pursuit of the individual's happiness comes the concept of personal space, me-time, self attainment etc... the essence of all this being that the individual can only give of himself if he is fulfilled. And so we go off in search of fulfilling our own needs...but I think this is looking at things in reverse. I feel that is in meeting the needs of others that our own needs are met. In making others happy, we ourselves attain happiness. In fulfilling others we fulfill ourselves.

This helps me keep going through the stress I experience daily. Stress is not an enemy, neither is it an ally. It is simply part and parcel of life. I cannot escape it, neither can I overcome it, but perhaps I can ride through it, recognizing that ultimately it reminds me of my place in the larger scheme of things. I will not fall apart because of it... I might slow down if need be, but I will fight the urge to be overwhelmed by it. I will allow it to give me a push if need be, and I will recognize when I may need to step away from things that may not be good for me... but I will not fear stress or avoid it completely. I don't think I can and I don't think I want to either... it reminds me that I am alive!

thanks for reading.