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Wearin’ It On Your Sleeve

07 Jul

Every time I experience a stressful week or two or eight, I take specific notice of my health. I can see it deteriorate before my eyes, especially if I’m not careful or don’t take the time to exercise. It’s amazing how much stress can affect our ability to just smile and how quickly it can cause our moods, our demeanor and outlook to spiral out of control. Eventually, when it affects our health it only gets worse as the results of poor health make it more difficult to deal with day to day issues and the problem only escalates.

But look, it’s not like I’m telling you anything you don’t already know. The point of this entry is not to preach on the dangers of stress, but more to encourage awareness and ask the question that came to my mind this past week; “Where do you wear YOUR stress? Is it your head? Heart? Stomach?”

Throughout my life, I’ve watched my own family carry their stress in their own unique ways. Some had stomach issues, others migraines, a few had heart disease, back aches, ulcers, high blood pressure, depression, anger, you name it, someone in our family had it covered. As I looked closer, it was obvious that how we all dealt with stress was something we inherited from our parents. It made me stop and look at my own children and what they were witnessing as they saw me handle stress.

For me personally, I carry my stress in my gut and if left un-dealt with long enough, I’ll eventually end up doubled over. This is particularly true if I fail to exercise consistently. I learned at an early age that if I threw on my nikes and put in 3-4 miles the worries would seem more manageable, the pain would go away and my outlook was typically much brighter. Perhaps the most important aspect was it provided me with the energy I needed to tackle the pile of crap that was overwhelming me and causing me stress in the first place.

As I worked through my divorce I also reflected on the fact that I had typically worn my stress on my sleeve, creating an up and down emotional environment for my kids and more than likely people I worked with as well. My ex-wife first made me aware of this tendency and it’s been a goal of mine to become continually more consistent in how I respond to stress and anxiety. Again, it’s about looking in the mirror and being aware of the affects stress is having on us.

I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear that divorce in and of itself is a stressful event to live through. The resulting tangents, twists and turns your life goes through as you cope with adjusting to life as a divorcee exponentially increase the opportunities for anxieties and worries to raise stress levels and increase the risk of health issues associated with stress. The point here is that divorce is a huge source of anxiety and the ensuing stress is dangerous. Recognizing that stress is taking its toll on your mind, heart, stomach etc. is an important element of survival. Being aware of what stress is doing to you physically and the affect it’s having on those around you is essential in managing your life and being prepared to overcoming the hurdles in front of you. Ignoring these affects can cripple you if you’re not careful.

Finding a means of relieving that stress is a must. You need to find a release and take steps to focus more on your health and minimize the stress as much as you can. Sometimes this means making difficult financial choices or career changes. It may mean buying a treadmill or forcing yourself to buy a new pair of hiking shoes. Regardless, I think if you look deep enough into your soul you’ll see the answers relatively clearly. You may not always like them. But they’re typically there staring you in the face and can represent a path to calmer waters.

And don’t roll your eyes, but when at all possible, maintaining a positive relationship with your ex can help eliminate or lesson the amount of stress in your life as you attempt to reach the next phase of your life, whatever that is. Becoming combative, holding grudges and pointing fingers only escalates stress and creates more weight on your own shoulders. Yes it may hold you back in some ways from moving forward, but adjusting to life as a divorced dad is not an overnight event. It takes time. Each step brings new understanding and growth. Do your best not to rush to the next step. Take a deep breathe, take your time, consider your choices, and keep your focus on the people that matter most, your kids.

So stop, reflect, think back. Have you laughed today? Did anything make you smile? Did you require an extra
dose of extra strength Tylenol to make it through the afternoon? Is this four days in a row like that? Believe me, it’s just not worth it. What’s important is not only smiling yourself, but giving your kids a reason to smile and laugh and feel good about their world. If you’re stressed, chances are you’re more abrasive, less likely to stop what you’re doing and toss the football or play tea party. You may not realize it, but in essence, you’re simply passing your stress on to your children. Yeah … they’re watching. And smarter than you think. As with most things in life, how you deal with your stress is something your kids will watch very closely. They’ll carry that with them the rest of their lives. So here’s your chance to take a good look at yourself and your own well being. Because if you’re not careful, you more than likely will run the risk of creating a scenario where your stress is more than just something you wear on your sleeve. If we’re not careful, it can quickly become a hand me down.

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