This will be the easiest article I have written in a long time, for no other reason than I am emotionally, knee-deep in a field of shit. When I am emotionally invested in something I can throw up my thoughts and feelings on the computer screen with such clarity and brevity that I sometimes surprise myself with the outcome. I won’t be nominated for a Pulitzer, but at the same time, everyone that writes simply wants their words to touch someone and strike a common chord with their audience.

Over the last couple weeks, I have been drowning in a sea of cortisol right along with my wife. I sometimes wonder if my adrenals are sputtering as if out of gas, but still attempting to get me another mile down the road in hopes of a refuel from a gas station that is nowhere in sight — at least not yet. My wife and I have been together for almost 25 years and married for 23. We have raised four children, have two grandchildren, and have dealt with almost anything you can imagine from untimely, tragic death to financial strain, to a bit of financial freedom, relationship battles, her uterus falling out, her cancer diagnosis, her running out of Bud Light during a snow storm, etc. We had a nice run of about 10 years where we were spoiled and didn’t have to deal with much adversity, so…I guess God felt we had gone too long without us being tested. Thanks, God. At least you didn’t ask me to sacrifice one of my kids. You rock.

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While I was wallowing in my own self-pity (oh, like YOU haven’t done it), pouting, and wondering, “What else could possibly go wrong”, I stepped outside of myself briefly and wondered why my perspective was so negative. Is it really the situation that is causing all my stress or is it my reaction/response to the situation? Now, I’m not terribly bright nor deep, so if you could have seen my face at that point, you would have witnessed the look of a perplexed, mildly retarded, middle-aged man (46 is middle-aged to a 46-year-old) trying to figure out what he ate 10 minutes ago for lunch.

vector stress conceptual meter indicator

I, like a lot of OCD/controlling/perfectionist (should I go on?) people, want to immediately take over a stressful situation by diving in to find the answer to the “problem.” My brain works in a way that if I see a problem I need to find the answer or fix the problem. To do that, I wildly attempt to control the uncontrollable and I plan for an infinite number of outcomes. For some reason that sets my mind at ease. I am worrying about what is going to happen as an outcome when I have absolutely no control over the outcome. This also somehow sets my mind at ease, however briefly. When I say “briefly,” I mean roughly 10 minutes or until I think of the stressful situation again and go back into “control” mode. Clearly, planning for an infinite number of outcomes can be quite taxing.

Personally, my metaphorical brick-to-the-side-of-the-face came when I was essentially overwhelmed. If I am being honest, I had worried myself to the point that I thought I could actually cause myself health problems if it continued, either from a heart attack or getting shingles for the second time in my life. And with the pain I still have from the first shingles episode, I might want to opt for the heart attack. You might think this sounds a bit ridiculous and an overreaction, but if you have dealt with a high level of stress, you can probably relate. If you can’t, congratulate yourself that you can control stress better than I can.

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It was no real coincidence that when I felt physically and psychologically the worst, things clicked. I gained a perspective that I had to gain, or I felt I was going to cause myself physical damage in some way. It became quite clear to me that I was overreacting and that the situation my wife and I were dealing with wasn’t the cause of my stress, but rather I was creating the stress due to my overreaction to the situation. This is huge if you think about it, because we all tend to put blame on situations or things that take place as the cause of our stress, when in reality it is our reactions that are the actual cause of the stress.

I have found that RARELY, if ever, have I had a stressful situation that ended up working itself out because I planned, worried, and stressed. It either is going to work itself out or it isn’t, and all of the worrying in the world isn’t going to change that. This applies whether it is a health issue, money issue, relationship issue, job/career issue, etc. I can’t think of one situation where this doesn’t apply.

I am not the type of person that looks at all of the positive things in my life as reminders about how “blessed", I am and the stress disappears. That is not to say that I do not count my blessings, because anyone close to me knows that I do. I have an endless list of things to be grateful for, but my point is that those things—as positive and awesome as they may be—do not counter my psyche and magically switch me into a mode of putting things in perspective. I have this need to try to control things and “fix” things.

I am not a religious person, but I do feel that things work out as they are supposed to work out. I have found an odd sense of peace in the last couple of days as I have changed my perspective and accept—where some say God will work it out—that things will work themselves out. In the end, I have found that sometimes the darkest situations end up with brilliant outcomes. And the worst-case scenario, though not pleasant, usually is far worse in our minds than actually manifests in reality. I have also realized that my situation is not “dark,” and when everything is said and done I will likely be embarrassed at my response to the situation. I am a father, husband and a man. My name is Skip and sometimes I overreact. Just Sayin’.