Stress Is What You Make of It

If I were pinned to the wall by two or three burly thugs and forced to sum up our world in one word, I’d have to say, “stressful.”

I suspect that every generation from the beginning of time has probably said the same thing about their world, and maybe I’m biased because I live in the now, but I think we humans have developed stress to a new level.

Just look around and it is hard to miss the signs of stress.

The highway is a good place to look. Here we have humans being propelled in machines at 70, 80 or more miles per hour, bumper to bumper on two, three or more lanes wide; humans whose average response time is more in the 25 mph range, and that’s if full attention is on driving, which in many cases, it’s not.

Add fatigue, phones and other communications devices, radios, CD players, iPods, etc. and distractions are abundant. No wonder we see road rage, which isn’t just a loose term -- it’s a symptom of a stressful world.

There’s stress in the workplace, especially in this economy. Then there’s the economy itself to worry about.

There’s the Global War on Terror we constantly live with, and what do we do with all these terrorists and what about Gitmo (Guantanamo Bay detention facility).

There’s stress for our children in school as we continually raise the bar to celestial levels in an attempt to keep up with the global community.

Oh, and about that global community, there’s plenty to worry about there as we buy petroleum products and far too many of our consumer goods from countries who act like they’d just as soon see us crumble.

Well, I could go on and on and I’m sure readers could add to our bucket list of stress. But what good does that do, really? We already know it’s a stressful world. The question is, how do we deal with it?

Stress can cause all sorts of physical, psychological, social and family problems, so how do we defend against it?

On this Friday as we move into the weekend, I would suggest we take a lesson from the martial arts, in particular Aikido (pronounced Aye Kee Doe).

Aikido is an ancient Japanese system that combines martial studies, religion and philosophy into a style that is translated roughly as "The Way of Harmonious Spirit.” Aikido is designed to enable a person to defend against, but at the same time not cause injury to, the attacker. Basically, the form redirects the force of the attack instead of opposing it head on.

I think most people, with practice, could become proficient in the art of self-defense against stress. Now, I am making this system up as I go along, so we are all students and we are all masters; pipe in with your opinions or ideas.

We’ll need a name for this style in case we want to open a dojo (school); let’s try Stresskido.

So, for example, defense against the idiot driver who passes you at 65 mph, then gets in front of you and slows down to 60; let the spirit of Stresskido guide you. Smile, take your foot off the gas a little and allow the force of the idiot’s car take him far away from you. Whoosh, stress gone.

That seemed to work OK. Let’s try Stresskido defense against stress of the boss calling a meeting for tomorrow to discuss “Reorganization and Reassignment” and you don’t have any idea what he’s talking about. Whoosh … Assume it’s a promotion, take the rest of the day off and spend time with your favorite hobby. Stress gone, or at least lessened or delayed.

Maybe it would help to be armed with some enlightening mantras to recite while redirecting stress. How about “Take a rest: A field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” (Ovid, ancient Roman poet) Recite this over and over as you visualize your stress floating off into the air like the wispy seedpods of a dandelion.

Or, “Give your stress wings and let it fly away.” (Terri Guillemets) I can visualize the boss and his idea perched on a giant buzzard flopping off into the distance.

Ooh, here’s a good one: “The mark of a successful man is one who has spent an entire day on the bank of a river without feeling guilty about it.” (Unknown author) I can definitely identify with that one.

I guess the bottom line is that stress is what we make of it. We can make it a monster that devours us, or we can redirect its energy to propel us to places we never would have gone without it. Stress, like pain, can be a sign of weakness leaving the body.

So, on this Friday morning as we all face our special stresses, take a moment, close your eyes, inhale deeply and exhale slowly 10 times. Repeat your favorite mantra, side-step the stresses and let them blow on past you until they’re out of sight. If stress persists, find a riverbank (even if it’s in your mind) and spend some time there.

Now, go forth grasshoppers, be like the Teflon, and shed your stress. And may the Force be with you.

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine, is Director of Leisure Services (parks, recreation, library) in Peachtree City, Ga. Contact him at (770) 631-2542 or e-mail