“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye
As humans we’re all different, so it’s no surprise that we handle situations in our own unique ways. When it comes to dealing with some sort of emotional trauma, there are a number of ways to get through the dark times. Some of us need to vent to a friend while others want space to just be alone with our thoughts.
The worst stress is the kind that hits out of nowhere. Two weeks ago, I got my first speeding ticket while cruising along a Virginia highway. I saw the lights of the cop car flash and my stomach immediately dropped. I was frantic with panic. It seems like a pretty trivial incident in the long run, but it affected me, especially because I consider myself a law-abiding citizen and super anal about following rules of the road. I felt the full effects of the stress—rapid heart beat, tightness in my throat, the hairs on the back of my neck standing straight up. I felt like I was going to cry, actually.
So what do I do in situations like this? I used to dwell and mull over every detail in my head and have a hard time letting it go. Now, I keep calm and call my mom, actually. She is the one person who I can always count on to relax my mind and tell me that everything will work out just fine. My mom always answers the phone at any hour, so I know she’ll always be there with wisdom. And I am not ashamed at all for this.
But merely talking to someone is not going to solve the problem. To truly alleviate stress, you must work from within. Keeping busy with mindless tasks is an excellent way to handle it. For example, I enjoy working out to really cleanse my mind and body. Yoga has also been the most incredible activity for me because though it’s a personal practice, it places your mind in a healthy place and makes you think of yourself as part of a bigger universe.
Realistically, stress makes us selfish. It makes us dwell on our own woes, and we lose focus on the more important parts of life. My mom always tells me to try and do something for someone else whenever I’m feeling stressed out. This can be done by volunteering, calling up a relative to ask about how they’re doing, or helping a friend with their own stress issues. I find the last activity to be extremely therapeutic because I know I’ve done something to make their life easier and maybe I even learned something that can apply to my own stressful situations.
On a lighter note, I received a Valentine’s Day package from my grandmother that was jam-packed with stress relief candles and body lotion from Bath & Body Works. My friends got a kick out of that, thinking it was ridiculous. But the combination of aromas really does calm me down. Every night before I go to sleep, I lather on the lotion, and it makes my clothes and sheets smell amazing, too. My mom also loves surprising me with those adult coloring books, which are incredible, and I would recommend them to everyone. I have always loved coloring books and continued to buy them for myself before it was necessarily acceptable for me to color at my age.
In all seriousness though, stress sits deeper and accumulates over time. Personally, family and school stress pile on me constantly. It’s taken me years to figure out how to handle it all, and I still find myself learning each and every day.