Lately, it seems like everywhere I look there’s another harried, frazzled person working too hard and getting too little sleep.
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to find ourselves trapped in a cycle of stress, and yet, it is so very difficult to address our stressors head-on. There are many great tactics to help reduce stress—exercise, listening to music, and social support, but I believe that having a fair amount of stress in your life is actually beneficial and can produce a healthy boost that provides the drive and energy to be productive. Obviously, I am not advocating untreated chronic stress that can result in serious health conditions, rather I am referring to a normal dose of stress that forces us to accomplish and complete tasks. Just the right amount to “light that fire” under us and get us going.
I grew up in a home where my mother was always busy—a real mover and shaker. She worked outside the home, was constantly volunteering on various committees, tutored, and efficiently mothered three children. I am sure with all those responsibilities she felt a good deal of stress. She managed to be around when we were home from school and we always sat down to family dinners (eating out was never an option in the town where I grew up—as we had no kosher restaurants). I can, however, clearly recall times when my mother had to take a short walk alone to decompress, or just excuse herself for a few minutes of alone time. Our household ran smoothly with a sense of routine and order. My mother mastered the juggling act of handling a family, being productive, working, giving to our small Jewish community and managing the stress all the while.
As a child, my only concern was that my mother was around when I needed her. As I grew older, I learned to admire her for being driven. As an adult and mother myself, I am thankful for the gift she gave to me. That gift is the ability to prioritize and optimize and not to sweat the small stuff. She provided a model for finding positive, healthy ways to manage stress as the stress occurred, and not when it was too late and became a crisis.
Stress can be defined as a feeling when perceived demands placed on you exceed your ability to cope. There will always be stress, no matter what your lot in life. My mom taught me that the key is to turn that pressure into something motivating and to never let it slow me down. Fulfilling our tasks in the workplace or at home provides a positive feeling of accomplishment and that makes us do it all over again.