I’m on a cool, quiet, peaceful morning walk in the neighborhood. My hands are full of books from my favorite tiny library box. On my left, I’m passing a house with a big yard surrounded by a chain link fence. Here comes galloping a big, fat, dark haired boxer doggy up to the fence right beside me. I know there’s no way this dog is jumping the fence and landing on me. That doesn’t stop my mind from picturing that in the split second before it's inches from my face.
The dog doesn’t bark, so much as it lets out a subdued “HUF!” Regardless, me being me, I flinch. He got me! Ha ha. Suddenly, my adrenaline is spiking. Stress. What do I do with it?
I’m flashing back to the free online mindfulness-based stress relief mediation course I discovered years ago. One of the supplemental video lessons is a National Geographic documentary called Stress: Portrait of a Killer. I’m oversimplifying, but here goes: the big difference between “good” stress and “bad” stress comes down to how you decide to interpret it.
You feel the telltale signs of stress. Increased heart rate, heightened senses, sweat. Should you decide it’s a bad thing, because you associate these feelings with bad scenarios, your body will obey your commands and channel the energy into destruction at the cellular level.
But in that moment, after the “HUF!”, I smile. Ah! Ya got me. After all, the boxer isn't foaming at the mouth, showing off some sharp teeth, or even growling. It's a curious, enthused and most importantly, barricaded dog. I’m safe. It’s good to laugh it off and accept the little extra adrenaline boost as an unexpected gift. Thank you and good morning to you, big fat boxer dog.
Understanding and appropriately labeling stress is an important tool in managing the detrimental tolls it can take on the body.
I’d like to remember this the next time some coding thing is giving me some stress. Useful prompts to take a breath, laugh off the non-threat and use the energy boost as fuel.
(YouTube) Stress: Portrait of a Killer