I was five years old and my mom and I were driving down the road near our home. Before I knew what happened my mom had stopped the car, jumped out and ran across the street to flag down a passing car. She appeared panicked but nothing appeared to be wrong.
Once the couple pulled over to help I noticed my mom breathing into a lunch sack the driver had given her. What just happened to my mom? Some would call it an anxiety or panic attack, either way the effect of stress took it’s toll on my mom that day. The doctors call it hyperventilation which is an abnormally fast or shallow breathing pattern that can be brought on by stress.
We all feel the pressure of stress. Meeting deadlines, trying to get more done, finishing a “to do” list, taking kids to practice, picking kids up from practice, paying bills, and running errands. Perhaps a catalytic life event, current environment or present experience is causing you stress. Here’s the million dollar question.
When Does Stress Become Distress?
When our body, mind and emotions are so pressured they can not
return to a restful state then stress becomes distress.
Stress is part of life. Now you may want to sit down for a moment as you read the next line. Our goal in life isn’t to avoid stress but to regulate it, use it, facilitate it because the simple fact is, stress can be good for us! Think about it. Going to the gym, going for a run, lifting weights are all stressors on our body. When we workout we are stressing our heart, lungs and muscles.
What makes working out healthy for us is this one thing. We eventually stop! Here is a unique question for each of us. “What makes our bodies healthy? Is it the workout or the rest?” Are you ready for the answer? Yes! Yes it’s the work out and yes it’s the rest.
Stressing our body and then allowing it to recover is the difference between good stress and bad stress during a workout and it’s the difference between good stress and bad stress in life.
1. Good stress is intermittent and occasional.
2. Distress is chronic and continual.
Dr. Archibald Hart says, “The stress that does us in is not the temporary crisis kind of stress, it’s the stress of challenge, high energy output and over commitment over time.” Now, for a moment, let's step out of the box and look at a couple of things that are never mentioned when talking about stress but could really help us understand the stress-rest rhythm.
Oscilloscopes are used to observe the change of a signal over time. It can be an electrical signal, music signal or even a heartbeat. The most common reference for an oscilloscope would be watching your heartbeat on a small screen in a hospital. While monitoring your heartbeat on the oscilloscope the doctor is looking for a healthy pattern, beat or rhythm.
Sine Waves (Pronounced Sign Waves) are used to show electrical impulses, sound waves and, if we continue our medical example, the beat of your heart. The Sine Wave is the “up and down lines” you see on the screen showing the rhythm of your heart. You can see an example of an electrical Sine Wave at the top of this post.
The picture of the Sine Wave at the top of this post shows a smooth repetitive back and forth change of highs and lows. There is a natural flow or balanced pattern. Think of this Sine Wave as a natural flow of stress and rest. A picture of how the rhythm of our life should be with our relationship with stress.
Let’s revisit our medical illustration as a final reminder for this week. If the rhythm of your heart is healthy it will display a healthy beat, a healthy rhythm and that’s healthy Sine. When your heart has an irregular or arrhythmic beat or shows no beat, no rhythm at all that’s that’s a bad Sine.
This week let’s focus on a healthy Sine Wave of stress and rest. A balanced rhythm to maintain a health leadership and family life.
Is there anything weighing on your heart today? Anything causing stress in your life? How will you plan for a moment of rest this week? What is your Sine telling you?