On Stress

The subject of “stress” has been working its way into my conversations more and more lately. Whether related to work, money, health, or otherwise, it is saddening to hear stories of how stress is stripping joy from someone’s life.

I am, of course, no exception. I also struggle with stress on a daily basis and find it to be both tiring and frustrating. I recently decided to think through what is causing this stress and how it might be manifesting itself. My hope is that if I can determine the cause, then I can mitigate the problem. (Yes, I studied engineering.)

As an aside, I am often ashamed to discuss my personal struggles with others because I feel I have a good life and my struggles may in fact be so-called “first world problems.” For example, a person who cannot find a job may view someone else’s work-related struggle as a “good problem” to have. That being said, I do think it’s important to speak honestly about our struggles because I often learn that others are dealing with something similar. And even if we cannot offer solutions, at least we can support each other and know we are not alone.

But back to the topic at hand, what exactly causes stress in my life?

While it seems stress is often caused by work, money, health, or family situations, none of these are the case in my life at present. My stress is caused by my inability to control my current situation. I am a hyper-organized, lightly obsessive person (great opening line on a resumé, right?) and I have trouble dealing with problems I cannot solve in a timely manner. The current stress in my life is caused by the laggard velocity at which the Polish government operates. Their snail’s pace leaves me in a situation where I am forbidden to depart the country… comparative torture for someone whose primary interest is traveling.

The fact that this lack of control bothers me also speaks volumes about my lack of patience and trust in God, but I’ll reserve that topic for a future post.

To continue this train of thought, how does my behavior change when I am stressed?

While the answer to this question is not something I am proud of, I am well aware that my behavior changes for the worse when I am stressed.

For starters, I speak more and listen less. I generally try to focus on asking questions and really listening during conversations, but when I’m stressed, I end up talking more and listening less. This leads to less gratifying and more one-sided conversations. So if you find me blabbing on and on during a conversation, well, now you know why. 🙃

I also find that anger creeps into my life when I’m stressed. Things that usually don’t bother me begin to trigger this anger… trivial things like a messy apartment or a light bulb burning out.

(Though surely we can all agree that a light bulb burning out is annoying, right?)

My productivity also decreases when I’m stressed because I have trouble focusing on the task at hand. This leads to me getting fewer things done, which leads to increased frustration, and on and on we go…

And so what is a guy to do when some harmless introspection leads to a realization that stressors are out of my control and are damaging my character and outlook?

I suppose I must remember to enjoy the freedoms I do have and accept that this period of waiting is only temporary. To be grateful for a much-needed lesson in patience.

And to remember that I often pray for attributes such as patience, but then stubbornly protest when the lessons which bear them arrive. Ah, I really do have much to learn, don’t I? 😅

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Glen January 29, 2018 Reply

Good article, the ability to recognize and rationalize the source of your stress is a great big step in being able to control it. As usual, loved 💙reading your note. Have a beer 🍺 and relax 😂.

Graham Swan January 30, 2018 Reply

I find when I think critically about the current stressors and frustrations in my life, they often begin to feel smaller (or even trivial) at the end of the process.

Perhaps doctors should start prescribing a cup of tea and a few minutes of intentional thought as a first defence… oh, and a beer, obviously! 🍻

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