It creeps up on us when we least expect it. It blindsides us—even on happy occasions.
We’re supposed to be happy
A friend called. She’s getting married soon and like many couples, the closer the wedding day approaches, the more the stress builds. There’s a glitch with the catering, or valued guests suddenly can’t make it, or the family wants to run things their way, or …
Inevitably, it seems as if the couple’s plans are falling apart at the seams. Their wedding day looks like it’s headed for disaster. And to quote closet philosopher, Jed Clampett, their faces hung “lower than a hog’s chin on market day”.
We’re in denial
Fifteen years of knowing he could die any day, and I didn’t think I was under stress?
I’m losing my balance and thinking it’s neuropathy or maybe diabetes, but stress?
I’m wondering why my eyes are so tired and I’m so fatigued in general.
I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. My mind won’t turn off. And when I do fall asleep, it’s to the incessant chatter within my head.
I’m irritable and snapping quickly, but everybody does that sometimes, right?
Sure, I’ve got lots going on in my life, but stress? No, I handle stress well.
I’m getting sick more often, but what do we expect with covid around?
I have so much on my plate, I don’t know where to start.
The dawning recognition
Stress can creep up on us so insidiously that we don’t see it coming. It never lets go. We become wound up tighter and tighter like a spring that’s about to snap.
We try harder, but we get further behind. We can no longer prioritize. We have no idea what’s most important anymore, so we give in to the most pressing. The tyranny of the urgent takes over.
One day the light bulb goes on and we realize that instead of managing stress, it’s managing us. We find ourselves just going through the motions. There’s no more joie de vivre.
You’re not alone
My friend’s call reminded me that we all fall into the stress trap on occasion.
We may set our expectations so high, wanting so badly for things to be perfect—to have the perfect wedding, to be the perfect parent, to write the perfect blog, to meet all our deadlines—that we get stressed out.
Or maybe it starts with pressure—too many things on our plate. We wear so many hats—parent, partner, friend, caregiver, employee, manager.
We have to manage with less resources, time, and budget than any human could possibly manage. The expectations and demands just keep growing. It feels like we’re out on the ocean without a life raft!
Anxiety is at a record high in our society. Anxiety medication is flying off the shelf. And those who aren’t overtly anxious may find themselves trapped within a general sense of malaise and apprehension.
What can we do?
Here’s a sneak preview—start with the most obvious:
- Identify what’s going on in your life
- Acknowledge the stress you’re experiencing.
- Begin with the little changes that you can make.
- Once you’re in the habit of the little things, then take the next steps.
Join us in Part II for more details on personal stress management strategies.