These past couple of days have been stressful. Yesterday I realized that because of student loans, fines to the Deutsche Bahn, and general irresponsibility, I am already out of money. This is a new record, I think, running out of money only two weeks after my monthly paycheck. And I'm supposed to be saving money for my return to the States? Awesome, way to go, Jillbo. Not only that, but I'm supposed to be taking a trip to Amsterdam this weekend, a trip I've been anticipating my whole life... and now it looks like I might have to lend money from my boyfriend for the whole weekend, which would really suck.
Then this morning, I almost had a nervous breakdown when I had a less than friendly interaction with the family espresso machine. This thing is a beautiful, luxurious, intricate, and probably very expensive coffee/espresso/cappuccino making creature, and its a part of the family like a beautiful cat would be. But this beautiful cat can make professional status coffee drinks, so its the greatest cat ever. And for a good twenty minutes, I thought I broke it. I filled the part of the machine that I assumed was for grinding coffee beans with coffee beans, naturally, but then got really freaked out because I thought maybe that actually wasn't the right place for coffee beans. And then I was completely convinced that it was the absolute wrong place for coffee beans, I had probably poured those little buggers into the inner workings and very bowels of this complicated beast, and that I had most likely inadvertently murdered a family member who might be more valuable to this family than I am at this point. On top of everything else that has been stressing me out, this put me over the edge. I was in survival mode, like an animal caught in a trap, blinded by stress and fear and acting on any idea, no matter how illogical, that comes to mind simply to make the problem go away. The small coffee beans had wedged themselves into a tiny little hole, so I attempted to pick them out with tweezers. When that didn't work I proceeded to use spoons, tipping the enormous thing in all directions, draining out water, shaking it around, and then using tweezers again. Coffee machine parts where everywhere, beans scattered on the floor, and I was covered in dirty coffee water. I must have looked like a crazy person, and I'm grateful no one was around to see me in such a state. After realizing how much this coffee machine was taking over every last molecule in by brain reserved for rational thought, I put the coffee machine down (right side up), cleaned up my mess, and took a breath. I told myself everything was going to be alright, the machine would be okay, and I will be alive no matter what fate I may have accidentally dealt this machine. I needed to reclaim my mind from this uncontrollable, raving, and powerful stress monster, and just come back to reality. As I calmed down, my logic seemed to come out from hiding from that intimidating stress-creature, temporarily tamed, and began to suggest some simple, logical solutions to my problem. I realized other people have probably had similar interactions with this machine, in which case there was probably some advice on the internet. Lo and behold, I found a manual for the machine online which promptly explained to me that I was, in fact, right about where the coffee beans were meant to go, and that I just needed to restart the machine in order for it to recognize that it was refilled with new beans. You can imagine my relief as hot, dark, tasty espresso leaked from that machine into my mug. An espresso drink later, I was back to my normal self and ready to forget the whole thing.
Thinking about the experience, I am fascinated with the incredibly powerful affect stress had on my entire being. One moment of insecurity turned into twenty minutes of mental torture, making an irrational monster out of a once sensible person. What ultimately saved me and this poor machine from unnecessary and possibly fatal dismantling was the moment I realized I had lost myself to this negative feeling. And once I realized that and came back to myself, my solution came to me. I think this is something very important to consider because we all deal with stress in our lives and it is a very powerful, controlling feeling. Obviously I am fortunate enough to complain about things as small as pocket-money and coffee machines, but there are people out there who have to deal with much more scary and stressful things, and I think it's worth considering the powerful affects stress has on our energy, creativity, and love.
Stress has the ability to kill all positive, constructive, and meaningful thought in an instant. It is a seriously powerful emotion that can be triggered by the smallest thing, and take control of our lives effortlessly. When it has a constant presence in our lives it suffocates our creativity and blocks our energy and breeds more negativity until we are convinced that our lives suck. It inhibits our thoughts and emotions which saps our physical energy and makes us want to curl up in bed and be alone, crippling us socially, spiritually, and mentally. In so many words, stress = unhappiness. Duh.
So, if we're going to attempt to protect ourselves from this dangerous force we have to be able to tackle stress in a healthy, rational, and intelligent way. Here are some ideas:
o Don't try to suppress your emotions during times of stress. Recognize the negative, controlling feelings and accept them as they start to come over you. Trying to convince yourself that it doesn’t matter never works because it is all you can manage to think about. So let it consume you, temporarily, being conscious that it is not permanent and will subside soon.
o Visualize the future moment when this problem is gone. It’s sometimes hard to imagine a time when you won’t be anguishing over whatever gigantic issue is plaguing you, but there will be a time, and it will come sooner than you think. Know that whatever is causing you stress, whether its something as temporary as a broken coffee machine or as constant as a bad relationship, try to visualize yourself in the future having gotten through this challenge. This will help to calm you and to think rationally.
o Deal with the problem to the best of your ability. Do whatever you can in that moment to reduce the size of your problem. You may feel hectic and out of control, but just acknowledge it and try to be active. Don't let your feelings make you passive and non-functioning.
o Once you have done every logical thing you can think of to make the problem go away, focus on something else. Make it simple. Call a friend and tell them about it, watch an episode of your favorite show, take a shower, go for a run, make food, or focus on a different, less stressful problem. If the thing your stressing about continues to bug you, let it bug you, and try to think of the next logical step into solving the problem. If you can’t, move on.
o Return to yourself. Even if you can’t solve the thing that is stressing you out, you’ll find that eventually the feelings of doom and despair fade as your brain visualizes the future, makes logical choices, and has a realistic perspective on your circumstances. And once those bold, dangerous, scary, all-consuming feelings fade into the background, you’ll see that more logical and interesting solutions will come to mind. And you’ll see that what was stressing you out so much was not nearly as big of a deal as you thought it was. Either way, you will get through it, you will be alive, and you’ll be happy.
Kill the Killer
This sounds corny, but what you can really begin to understand from dealing with stress correctly is that everything will TRULY be alright. Once you go through a bad, scary, stressful time and get out of it safely and securely, you see that it was only temporary and in the end you were victorious. Don’t let this be a passing thought: if you can develop this understanding into a philosophy, you will see your life improves drastically. Not only are you able to see through the negativity of stress to the other side whenever it happens to you, but you will begin to grow into a perspective that gives you confidence, courage, awareness, and understanding. Really, things will turn out to be okay. Every day you wake up and your feet hit the floor is a good day, as my Dad likes to say. Your mind is intact, your body is safe, and your soul is always in control. So, when stress threatens to overcome you and strip you of your creativity, energy, and love of life, try to stay in control of your thoughts. Instead of letting it overcome you and lead you down a dark path of negativity, let the spastic and electric energy of stress motivate you to learn and grow. If you think about it, feeling those intense feelings of stress is a great experience, if handled correctly. When times get rough and the temptation to give up to fear and and insecurity becomes strong, stay conscious of these things: your mind is intact, your body is safe, and your soul is in control at all times. Challenge yourself to be optimistic during bad times, and, like training a muscle, you will see over time that your ability to be positive gets stronger and stronger. Soon negativity and stress will just be a blip on the radar, and won’t have the control over your thoughts and emotions that it once did. Not only that, but I promise that if you truly embrace optimism, a love of life, and a respect for the complicated, beautiful mess of the Universe, you will begin to draw positive people and experiences into your life