Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spilling the Beans

Ever feel like this is you?

I have been carrying around a lot of stress recently.  I have piled it up on my shoulders, determined to struggle alone with my burden, not wanting to throw it off on anyone else.  It has pulled my mood down, and instead of keeping a delightful air about myself, I succumb to the sarcastic and slightly negative.  There have been times in my life where I have been stressed worse, and I am sure there are many of you out there thinking “buddy you don’t know what stress is,” but for some reason, this particular bout of stress seemed to carry a little more weight than it should have.
Stress shares characteristics with the physical properties of pressure dynamics.  Imagine a closed pressure chamber in which exists air contained at the pressure equal to outside the chamber.  Now, by adding more air into the chamber, the pressure increases.  As more and more air continues to enter the chamber, the pressure climbs higher and higher.  Internally, the environment is gradually becoming more hostile.  As the pressure climbs, so does temperature.  The air becomes thicker as more and more molecules are forced to exist in the same space.  The walls of the chamber are designed to withstand a particular amount of internal force, but when the pressure exceeds that amount - BOOM!  The chamber blows.
We are all pressure chambers, but instead of our pressure regulators measuring the amount of air pressure within us, they would should stress.  For the most part, we exist with stress well below what we can handle, but periodically, as more stress barges into our lives, our stress chamber becomes more full, increasing our internal pressure.  The more stress we have, the higher that internal pressure becomes, and unless we find a release for the stress, the results will not be good.  If release never happens, our temperature will rise, and eventually, we will blow.
This particular stress episode of mine stemmed from feeling overwhelmed at the variety of my responsibilities.  I felt like I wasn’t able to fully accomplish anything I set out to do because of all the other things looking over my shoulder.  If I took a moment to relax, I felt guilty because there was a pile of work I needed to do in my office.  If I took a second to work on a personal project, my professional work grumbled.  While I worked on teaching schedules, I couldn’t help but feel that I was neglecting the activities that lead to a happier life.  It never seemed to stop.  My pressure was building.
The image I have in my mind of what happens when a person reaches their stress point took root way back in the 80s when I was growing up.  One of my favorite childhood movies - The Ghostbusters - reaches the pinnacle of tension at the end of the second act when they are forced to shut down the containment grid.  Those of you who have seen the movie know the exact scene I am referring to.  Vankman and Egon slowly creep away as the order is given to shut it down - they know what is about to occur.  The lever is thrown, a red light flashes and an alarm sounds.  Steam shoots out from the walls.  Bricks fly.  The walls shake.  Then everyone runs.  The grid blows, unable to handle the pressure inside, and from it spews every ghost, ghoul, and demon the Ghostbusters had been able to catch.
This is what it is like when someone blows.
We each have varying degrees of containment grids.  Some of us can withstand quite a bit of stress, while others can barely take any at all.  I am pretty certain we each understand our individual limits, but I am not sure we are all certain of how to find a release of that internal stress pressure before we blow.
For me this week, my release came from simply having a conversation with Samantha about it.  For weeks, I succumbed to the stupid masculine idea that I was strong enough and didn’t need to burden her with my worries.  All I succeeded in doing was to give her the impression I was in a funk - which was true.  Finally, I admitted to her what all was bothering me.  I spilled the beans.  While I spoke, I could feel the stress leaking out of me.  The next morning I felt so much better.  The stress was still there, but it was manageable.
I forgot that just because my stress burdens me, it won’t necessarily burden other people.  Talking about my worries to Samantha didn’t add to any worries she might have, but it relieved the pressure I was feeling on the inside.  I will not be blowing anytime soon.
There are many stress relievers out there to help you manage your stress levels.  Just the first page of a Google search for “stress reducers” produces this hearty list of choices - humor, diet, exercise, sleep, music, thinking positively, deep breaths, getting up early, play ahead, writing things down, changing it up, patience, simplify, don’t worry, organize, add love into the plan, be flexible, delegate, don’t judge, journal, water, kissing your loved one, cuddling, tea, massage, and sex.  There are many to choose from that can fit all lifestyles.
If you are stressing right now, find something to help let off some of the steam.  Maintaining a positive balance takes concentration and focus, but the results are worth it.  For those times when the stress seems to pile up, just remember what will happen if you don’t let it out.  Think the Ghostbusters. 

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