Recognizing the Problem
C.S. Lewis once said that we learn the most about our character under stress than we do when things are good. It’s how we respond under pressure that shows who we really are. I recently read this quote and, well… it got me thinking. I took a long, hard look at how I’ve reacted in times of great stress. I’ve come to realize, I am often not on my best behavior. And not to excuse that fact, in any way, but I believe many people could say the same.
As a mom and a teacher, I see examples of this quite often. Children ‘act out’ and misbehave when they are stressed, scared or worried. There are various techniques used that can help to diffuse the situation. Some examples of useful activities are providing them with a quiet space to reflect on their feelings, calming activities such as coloring, deep breathing or listening to meditation music, yoga or a counseling session to talk it out. I found these to be very successful methods of reducing stress for my students and my own children.
That being said, adults struggle with similar behaviors in times of great stress, as well. And why not? We are, in fact, human. Yes, as adults, we are expected to set the example for our children. We have a responsibility to demonstrate restraint and be considerate and respectful to others. As we should. However, ‘acting out’ happens with adults too. Some are better at controlling their emotions than others. All too often, when we’re stressed and overwhelmed we tend to take our frustrations out on the people around us. In particular, those we love the most, unfortunately. Although common, this is not good. Arguments ensue and now we’ve just added to our already long list of problems.
I’ll be the first to admit, I am a work in progress. I am an emotional, passionate person and wear my heart on my sleeve. Which is a kinder way of saying, I tend to speak my mind too often and cry or raise my voice. Chalk it up to being Italian or the fact that I’m an overworked woman in her late forties. Whatever the case may be, I was forced to look within and analyze what I am doing and how I behave when my stress is all consuming. They say the first step in recovery is admission. Let’s face it, we can never solve an issue in life, if we first don’t acknowledge that we have a problem.
Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed with my lengthy to-do list. I will concede to the fact that I am a die-hard type-A, organized, scheduler. If you’re in the same boat, then you are fully aware of how difficult it can be to accept and adjust when things don’t go as planned. I feel like my boat is sinking and I’m out of control.
Remember what C.S. Lewis said?… “we learn the most about our character under stress than we do when things are good. It’s how we respond under pressure that shows who we really are.” This gave me a jolt for sure. A wake-up call that I need to make some personal adjustments. I’ve always felt as though I was a good person. I am a good person. I can admit my mistakes. And I’m now doing the work of self-improvement. We all ‘misbehave’ during times of stress. Many of us bite off more than we can chew and when a wrench is thrown into our plan, something is going to break. Yes, I feel badly to become aware of my character flaws. But I’m proud to say, I can admit it and now work to improve.
As I stated above, as a mom and as a seasoned teacher, there are several effective strategies I use to help redirect or calm my kids. Taking from those ideas, I’ve developed my own plan of action to better myself. My plan is to love myself enough to take care of my mental/emotional health, as I have encouraged others to do. I have a new resolve, as many do this time of year. I will look up and look in more often. I will pray for guidance, strength and peace in times of stress. I will examine my actions and adjust as needed. I have also renewed my commitment to better health; physically, and mentally. One strategy I will use is frequent walking. For me, walking is best outside. Taking in the beauty of a path through the woods and around the nearby lake is so refreshing! I feel good about doing good for my body and get such a boost of those much needed endorphins. Plan B… Days I cannot get out, because of inclement weather or the need to be with my daughter, I will begin again, my at home yoga practice. Yoga is something I can do in my living room. No membership or equipment needed. Yoga is for beginners to the advanced. There are calming, peaceful styles such as Yin or kick-butt power yoga and everything in between, depending on your physical and mental needs on any given day. The physical and emotional experience are just what’s needed and I feel rejuvenated after every session. And, Plan C (remember, I’m a type-A planner… making the best of it 😉 )… times where I can do neither, I can just breathe. One, or several, of those deep, calming breaths, in through your nose and out through your nose. Nasal breathing has been proven to activate your lower lungs, allowing you to take in more oxygen, reduce blood pressure and boost your mood and your immunity.
The key is to find a way to buy time so that I think before I speak! My ‘plan’ is to utilize these methods so that I don’t snap when stressed. The more I can balance my stress levels the less-likely I’ll be to bite someone’s head off or say something I’ll regret, during overwhelming times in my life. I’m sure my mother, sister and husband will appreciate that!
Keep in Touch
Have you experienced times when you noticed your own character flaws? What are your stressors? Have you decided on a New Year’s Resolution? Drop your comments below. I’d love to hear what you think. Self-analysis is necessary at times. Just don’t beat yourself up. When we know better, we do better. Stay well!