My Reaction to Stress: Like Night and Day

This blog may sound like I’m whining.  Or maybe it won’t.  You decide.

In the last two months we:

Put our home of 16 years on the market and will be giving up the family home where our children grew up Have the opportunity to downsize and move to place we really want to live
House on market means dogs have to go stay with Ex No muddy feet to wipe or midnight whining to go to the bathroom
Have children who are struggling with decisions about their education, and therefore their future Have children who are taking the time to reconsider their path and make sure they are on the right track
Had a parent have a major and sudden illness, and almost died Had a parent have a health event, where the recovery phase might mean he can become stronger than ever
Had students who, for administrative reasons, faced the risk of deportation Had students that stepped up to advocate for themselves and realized that they have the power to make changes that affect their lives
Had a choice to take a job out of state, and potentially leaving our home, friends and family Had an opportunity to move out of state to meet new people and enjoy new professional challenges
Had to deal with the possibility of an out of state move with my sweetheart Learned that uncertainty and stress can forge a relationship to be even stronger
Was told that a major collaboration was ending Was told that a major educational opportunity was opening
A new grant opportunity came up suddenly that required a brand new, university-wide project be conceived of and proposed before the 2 month deadline The brand new project had a dream team of talented, committed people and we now have the makings of a fantastic project
Had a major grant deadline the day of our annual graduation.   Four more family graduations follow in the ensuing 5 weeks. Learned that graduation goes on without me.  Four more family members graduate in the ensuing 5 weeks.
Had a beloved assistant of many years announce her pending retirement Have a chance to hire a new assistant who will have new ideas, novel (to me) experience and style


Yes, life has been crazy lately.  When people ask what’s new, I just shake my head.

But this is life, in all it’s chaotic glory.  I remember years ago, my dear and most amazing friend Lisa told me that she doesn’t have stress in her life.  “How can that be?” I wondered.  Any one of the above could’ve and would’ve freaked me out back then.  The difference to me now is striking, as despite all of the above happening virtually simultaneously, I really did not stress until 2 nights before the grant deadline where I had to pull the first all-nighter of my life to get it done on time.

Back then, the column on the right was vanishingly small.  The column on the right now makes all the difference.  The column on the right is not my delusion or wildly- and naively-optimistic thinking.  The column on the right is choosing to view events not as stressors, losses, setbacks, or disasters, but rather to view them as opportunities and chances for growth.  Note that the column on the right avoids trying to control people or situations; rather it embodies acceptance of reality.

The column on the right has many advantages.  First, I did not unnecessarily add stress to those around me. I was a calming influence for the most part, not an anxiety-provoking one.  Second, by staying calm I was able to be more effective in each circumstance than I would have had I lost control.  Staying productive, focused and effective reduces the overall stress in the end rather than escalating it.  Third, I still was able to have a great quality of life despite the confluence of several potential making-me-crazy  situations.

I wrote recently about stress and how it really is simply a matter of perspective, which boils down to a couple of simple choices.  The first choice is whether to accept reality without judgment.  We have a tendency to want our lives to go smoothly and everything to come easily and naturally.  Comfort and ease are not conducive to growth.  Trial and tribulation inspires change and improvement.  So which is really better?  It’s not for me to judge.

The second choice is whether we choose the negative or positive (column on the right) interpretation of the events in our lives.  We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by choosing the positive. So – what’s it going to be – whine or get engaged with a great opportunity?  You decide that too.