We celebrated my kid’s third birthday yesterday. Early thoughts of pony rides and poolside clown shows gave way to a homemade luau, and only because all the accoutrements were on sale at Party City.
What kind of moron would stress about a home party for a 3-year-old and her scabby-kneed cousins? What can I say–I’m just lucky that way. Plus I’m a working parent who relies on those 48* weekend hours to accomplish all the things necessary to manage a household and a family. Thank heavens I’m part of a couple whose other half can string party lights and secure tiki torches. I can only imagine the stress for a working, single parent.
I heard a really terrific analysis of stress on “Speaking of Faith” on American Public Media this weekend. The rheumatologist, researcher and author Esther Sternberg discussed the science of the mind-body connection regarding stress. Until recently, modern science did not have the tools or the inclination to take emotional stress seriously, she says.
The thing I took away is that modern science is beginning to treat stress as a real factor in illness. As Sternberg says in the interview, disease isn’t necessarily caused by stress; there is usually some other instigator like genetics. But it can deeply affect the way the body handles the illness. That’s true for me; my own chronic illness is stress-related, which means it’s largely work-related. If I stress about my wee one’s luau, imagine how I freak out over a cover story.
The good news, according to Sternberg, is that there are ways to get a grip. The best one involves taking yourself away from the stressful situation–whether it be the bedside of a loved one with Alzheimer’s or at the side of an abusive boss. Vacations do wonders, she says. But there again is a caveat: some are able to relax on vacations, while some others simply cannot. We stress addicts are simply wired to find something–anything–to obsess about. Even at a luau.
Got stress-busting tips? Do share.