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The Storms

A thought on facing challenges and dealing with negative stress.

Recently my family had the experience of weathering through a night of stormy weather. The conditions were so severe that a deadly tornado formed and landed within driving distance of our home. The lightning, wind, thunder, and rain were intense and the next day? All was calm. We had weathered the storm. Our home, our property, our family were all intact. Some small branches throughout the yard were the only evidence that something had even happened. Less than two weeks later, stormy weather returned. Lightning, rolling thunder, wind, and rain all through the night. I sat praying for our safety and strumming Amazing Grace on my guitar until sleep claimed me and I crawled into bed hopeful that all would be well. The early light of dawn greeted me accompanied by the sound of songbirds. The significance of it being the morning of Good Friday was not lost on me. I went outside in anticipation of finding damage and found the opposite. Again, we were blessed. How fitting to experience a dark, frightening night that led to the light of a peaceful day. For many, myself included, Good Friday and Easter Sunday mark such a passing of dark, frightening unknowns that led to reassurance and the opportunity of peace for all. Now dear reader, this is not a sermon, nor a Sunday School lesson, but a moment of reflection on our health and encouragement to be our best selves so read on!

How often do we face the storms of life feeling scared, uncertain, incapable, and lost? How often do we allow life’s challenges and rain to get us down and keep us down? Do we weather the storms of life in a healthy way, or do we instead create tornadoes out of a little rain by giving in to self-doubt of our ability to be okay and stand? Are you someone who allows or even invites negative stress into your life? Do you form and maintain unhealthy relationships, go to work as if it is a chore because you hate your job more than you love it? Are you overwhelmed by things that are seemingly so simple for others to deal with? As people, we do not have to be on top every day all day long, but we should never wallow in self-pity and negativity.

There is a difference between positive stress, also known as, eustress, and negative stress - that worrying, anxious state of being. We should not invite, hold on to, or keep negative stress as our daily routine. Negative stress is a silent and menacing beast. Deadly and wicked. Whereas we should be weathering life’s storms with healthy strategies, we too often allow stress to wear us down and age us, creating an environment within our bodies that promotes the onset of illness and disease. How can we ride out these challenges in positive ways instead of letting the challenges take us for a wild ride of unhealthy yee-haw?

Here are some strategies I have found to be beneficial, not just in practice as a clinician, but also in application to myself.

Talk it Out: Whether you seek the counsel of a professional or the confidence of a genuine friend, talking can help ease the process of coping with hardships. Information on Employee Assistance Programs, EAPs, is listed on the labor law posters your employer is required to display and can help you locate a counselor.

Walk it Out: Unlike stress, exercise is a healthy way to get your heart rate up. Get outdoors and walk, bike, jog, or even swim. The calming effect of exercise can help you clear your mind and see a given situation more objectively. Instead of engaging in a heated discussion, take a walk to “blow off some steam.” Studies show positive health benefits from activities such as yoga, Pilates, and tai-chi so perhaps an online tutorial or local class is available to you. Always consult your doctor before starting an exercise regimen.

Keep a Journal: Having jumbled thoughts or feeling as if you are too close to a challenging situation to see it properly? Try journaling. Write down your perspective, then try to write from someone else’s perspective. Make time to reflect on what your stressors are so that you can address them with confidence.

Pamper Yourself: Unplug from your devices and allow yourself to focus on positive thoughts. Put your feet up and take some deep breaths. Watch a good-feel movie or dance to a favorite song. A soothing cup of tea, a warm bath, and quiet gentle music can be great ways to take a moment of reflection or relaxation when facing a difficult or challenging issue. Personal Spa Day anyone?

There are many ways to address hard times and stress in a healthy way. If work is the stress culprit, you can choose to change careers, cut back on work hours, or simply listen to quiet music at lunch to relax. If you are not loving what you do for work or are not doing something you love, why keep doing it? Yes, bills exist, but perhaps there is a way to meet financial needs that is more in line with what makes you happy. Talking with friends and family or even a professional counselor can help you figure out how. Also, there are a number of legitimate resources online about how to budget and manage finances. If you are holding on to an unhealthy work or personal relationship, consider the long-term effects on your health if you do not make a change and let those negative relationships go. Are you not worth being sound of mind, body, and spirit dear reader? I think you are. Perhaps you are dealing with loss. Consider participation in a support group geared toward your particular situation. Do not be afraid or feel ashamed to seek help.

Stress comes in many ways and stems from various scenarios. How we handle negative stress is important. Life will not be, nor should it be all sunshiny days with gentle refreshing breezes. Rain will come but so will rainbows. The ground we stand on may be shaken, yet we do not have to face the terrain alone. Within each of us lies the ability to do what human beings do best – persevere. I encourage you to face challenge with a can-do mindset dear reader. Know that I am rooting for you to be your best self all the way and hope you learn how to smile and dance in the rain.



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