I’m currently on spring break from classes & teaching. One of my doctors, Dr. Harold, mentioned at my visit today that I seem a lot more relaxed and healthy right now. Things are so much less stressful now that I don’t have a million deadlines to meet and lots of crazy people to interact with. It’s true, but this observation begs the question:
How should I respond? Should I avoid stress like the plague? What if stress is adding to my pain and fatigue? Is that sufficient justification?
I’ve done my fair share of running in the past. I’ve run from all sorts of things: mean people, places associated with bad memories, suffering, hard classes, etc. Even though I earned my high school diploma in piano, I avoided many things related to music, including playing, attending recitals, and even interacting with musical friends because of the sorrow associated with losing the physical ability to play.
However, there’s a big difference between a mean professor and stress: the mean professor is finite; stress isn’t. It is feasible to avoid the mean professor. You simply don’t take his class. If he’s really mean, avoid walking past his office, avoid getting coffee at whatever shop he frequents, make sure he has no reason to recognize you for anything, etc. You can do whatever it takes to make sure that he’s not a significant part of your life.
Something like stress? It simply can’t be avoided. It’s part of real life. That means that as real people living real lives, we have to confront it. For me, the first step is recognizing that it is difficult and is something that I would like to avoid. Of course, that also means that I don’t go around seeking stressors. Secondly, I want to develop skills to confront stress, to break the stress-pain cycle. Breaking the cycle isn’t about avoiding the stress. It’s about cultivating the hidden courage to remain strong and to still be left standing when the storm comes. After all, the wise man didn’t figure out a way to avoid the storm; he just built his house upon the rock.