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Stress Monday

March 4, 2008

Stress is a part of life. Everyone is well aquatinted with stress, I’m sure. From my experience, there are two different types of stress; there’s regular, usual everyday stress. This kind of stress is almost like the hum of a refrigerator, always there in the background and easy to get used to. It’s definitely not a good thing, but it’s just life’s regular busy-ness.

Then there’s the other kind of stress. This kind of stress is a monster. It utterly debilitates and tends to grow exponentially.  This is a panic attack, freak out mode kind of stress. My mind fixates on a problem or worry and keeps blowing it more and more out of proportion until it is a bulging balloon that has consumed me. Once this has begun it’s almost impossible to end the cycle and pop the balloon. My mind can think of nothing else and I continue to psyche myself out. Ending this usually requires intervention of some kind.

Well, I had a visit from that stress monster today. It was not pleasant. I have a paper due this Thursday. 10 pages on a book on caste in India. I started really working on this paper last Thursday, figuring a week should be just enough time. Things were going great till the weekend came. I was pretty proud of the amount I got done Saturday afternoon, I was on that great roll where the paper just flows, but then I had a date that night, and that actually resulted in a panic attack of a very different nature, but that’s an entirely different story. Needless to say, thoughts of the paper had fled my mind.

And then it was Sunday. I had a really good Sabbath, and abstained from doing any homework so I could fully enjoy it. So today when I sat down again to continue work on the paper, I felt completely lost. I couldn’t remember anything I had been planning on writing about and had totally lost the flow of the paper. I felt exhausted and hungry and sat there staring at my computer screen unable to force out a single word. It was a panic moment, and I flipped. I had to call my mom so she could pull me out of the stress balloon and back into the real world. The real world that is actually never as bad as I imagine.

The great thing about these stress attacks is that things are never as bad as they seem while I am drowning in them. Without fail after the whole thing blows over I look back, laughing at myself, and wonder what on earth I got myself so worked up about. I try to tell myself to remember this next time I feel an attack coming on, but of course, that never happens. They still come. In the moment it always seems it can never be okay.

I have, however, come across a pretty foolproof way of combating this monster. If only I can remember to use it in the moment of crisis. These attacks often occur when I’m lying in bed. My mind is idle as I lie there, so it has the chance to work up into a worry. One time when this happened, I lied there trying to relax so I could get back to sleep, when, after a very long time it finally came to me to say a prayer. Immediately when I turned to Christ, the burden was lifted. I felt so much peace in that moment. It was amazing how quickly all my fears vanished. They just evaporated at the very thought of Him. I will always remember that moment and the comfort I received. Well, will really always remember it? Let’s hope I can in the moments that matter most. That could really save me from so many moments wasted in states of extreme agitation over what always turns out to be no big deal.

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