Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Hapless, But Helpful Mole

The greatest weapon against stress is

our ability to choose one thought over another."

- William James

As I’ve shared in recent posts, I’ve been on a bumpy road of ups and downs lately.  I’ve encountered potholes of hassles, mishaps and disappointments, but I’ve also slowed down to enjoy vistas of opportunities, connection and simple pleasures.  Why then, I asked myself last week, had I been allowing the potholes to rattle my inner core so incessantly?  I was allowing stress to overtake me to the point where my sleep and appetite were suffering along with my state of mind.  As much progress as I’ve made on how I react to and cope with stress, it was becoming apparent that I still have more ground to cover. 

Yes, I can pause and regain my bearings, but how does one create a more lasting effect?  Although I’ve become more adept at immersing myself in stress reducing activities – a creative project, a beach walk or nature hike, enjoying some family fun, reflective writing, becoming absorbed in a book, it’s the in-between time where I still need to work on calming the anxiety and tension that reasserts itself.

Last Thursday, I finally came closer to reaching a sense of calm, but it came about rather oddly.  I joked with my husband about whether or not I’d share my odd approach to achieving some much needed peace!  I decided to do so because despite being odd, it was a surprisingly effective approach (plus I decided long ago that anything can become fodder for my ponderings!)

On my way to pick up our daughter at the bus stop after school, I was stopped in traffic on the highway and happened to glance over at the opposite lanes.  I spotted a mole blindly trying to zigzag its way across the highway only to end up flattened by an oncoming vehicle!  At the risk of sounding a tad crazy, my mind instantly thought of current stressors, and I visualized that mole’s unfortunate demise as a symbol, albeit a bit odd and graphic, of all those stressors being flattened…knocked down, squashed, smoothed out (to borrow synonyms from the dictionary.)  In some bizarre way, that mole (who ever sees a mole trying to cross a 4-lane highway?!) gave me the strength to free myself from the stifling grip of stress.  I actually took further action on one of my current challenges as soon as I returned home and felt better afterward.  Sometimes stress can be in our face, under our skin, so imbedded that perhaps separating ourselves from that stress by transforming it into a helpful, manageable physical symbol (like a mole!) can help us gain control and achieve calm.

How do you transform stress into a more manageable form you can overcome?

(I think this is my first post ever without a photo.  I'm assuming your imagination on reading about the hapless mole sufficed!)