Monday, September 21, 2009

THE STRESS EQUATION examined.

Obviously, everyone, on one level or another, deals with stress on a regular basis. Whether it be  traffic, co-workers, relationships or (for many) calorie intake vs. energy output ... our world creates stress factors like bunnies create babies. 

As of late, I've been delving a little deeper into the roots of my stress because for me, stress leads to an unfortunate equation... THE STRESS EQUATION. I've really been studying this equation so I can learn to nip the many elements in the bud before allowing them to complete  their vicious cycle. Allow me to show you what THE STRESS EQUATION looks like:
 



I fully stand behind the fact that I am responsible for my reaction to stress. And, to some extent, I definitely create the stress for myself. But, since moving to San Diego, the stress factors that the world around me puts on my plate has definitely increased at least five-fold.


For example, this week I started a new job (insert canned applause noise here), and knowing I was starting on Wednesday, I went in to the DMV on Monday morning to finish registering my car. Here in San Diego, the DMVs have lines out the door from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday (and are not open weekends). You CAN make an appointment at the DMV, but it has to be made at least two weeks in advance if you are hoping to make one. I did not have an appointment, so I went at 8 a.m., hoping to beat the rush. Nope... joined a very diverse group of people outside the door. After an hour of waiting, my number is called. The DMV lady at the desk (who remains smileless for the short time we are together) informs me that I was previously given the wrong information about the paperwork necessary to finish the registration and that I don't have everything I need. Lovely.


So, I rage all the way home in my car in any way I can, including cuss words and tears. I think I even yelled at my radio. (Note: Notice THE STRESS EQUATION in action. Substituting the radio of course... If radios could talk...) After showering off, I decide to get the rest of my paperwork together and go back for another round of DMV awesomeness. I just wanted to BE DONE!!! Off I went to the line outside the door again. This time the wait was an hour and a half (I was still early in the day, so the wait wasn't up to the 2.5 hours Jon had to wait), and, after being called up to the desk, I left $40 lighter and 2 California license plates heavier.


Yes, it was a pain. And, after being spoiled by Minnesota DMVs where the wait rarely exceeds 15 minutes, I think anyone in my shoes would have been a little aggravated. But, this situation seriously stressed me out, and therefore got me unnecessarily worked up. The shameful STRESS EQUATION rears its ugly head.



I don't know if it's just because I'm not used to it yet... the noise, the people EVERYWHERE (I check my trunk when I get home, because seriously, that's how amazingly packed it is here), the traffic. But seriously, it has thrown me off. Maybe this guy had something legit...  

"When Mozart was composing at the end of the eighteenth century, the city of Vienna was so quiet that fire alarms could be given verbally, by a shouting watchman mounted on top of St. Stefan's Cathedral.  In twentieth-century society, the noise level is such that it keeps knocking our bodies out of tune and out of their natural rhythms.  This ever-increasing assault of sound upon our ears, minds, and bodies adds to the stress load of civilized beings trying to live in a highly complex environment."        ~Steven Halpern


But, at the same time, I can't blame San Diego (a beautiful city with much to offer) for my lame ability to control myself under stress. Has its elements upped my stress level to the highest they have ever been these past three months? Yes. But, the city was not the ultimate creator of THE STRESS EQUATION. Ask my poor mother, who has been "the poor person within 10 feet" many a time — especially during wedding planning.


So what is it that elevates the stress? Is it my fear of complete inadequacy — something won't get done right and I will disappoint someone to the point of being disowned? Is my fear of being shown as vulnerable, being weak in certain situations? Is it my genetically ingrained worrisome ways that cannot help but picture the absolute worst scenario ever, convincing myself that if something doesn't happen perfectly, I will end up living alone in a gutter, wearing my cherished Fray T-Shirt to the point of transparency doing stupid human tricks for money?


All I know is that I've been trying to quote Jeremiah 29:11 over and over in my head:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."


The idea is that if I keep ramming it into my head that God has a plan — that God has complete control — maybe my head will finally except what my heart already knows and then I won't stress anymore. Ideally then,  THE STRESS EQUATION will turn into this instead:




I feel like this would result in a lot less victims. What do you think? Hopefully I'll make progress in the coming weeks ... because I have an hour commute every morning and I want my radio to still like me at the end of the year.

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