Trump is back in the regular news cycle and that has me stressed. I’m not alone. That man! Even his name produces stress in many folk. When the 45th President of the United States was on the last election hunt, I asked my doctor for some psychiatric help. The specialist he referred me to asked why I felt anxious. He looked stunned when I named The Donald at the top of my list. History has born me out. Meanwhile I’ve now got the mental health support I need to weather the next storm.
We humans are elastic for the most part. We like to think that we can accommodate, collaborate or compensate but there are times when it becomes mighty hard to even tolerate a person, a group or a situation. Our capacity for stretching can be based on individual temperament which may be grounded by our genes, our upbringing or our experiences. It’s complicated. So complicated that we must never suggest to another to “Just get over it.” People, like cars, have been known to have breakdowns. Even steel bridges snap under pressure.
I was a career elementary school teacher; a profession often ranked high among stressful occupations. My colleagues and I were taught how to see challenges as eustress: a sunny, positive label that encouraged us to master our own fate. Natural body chemicals like adrenaline or dopamine can help. Caffeine helps others. Many turn to jogging, yoga, alcohol or drugs. Back then we didn’t talk much about mental health. Stress leave was stigmatized but prevalent. Going to the psychiatrist was considered a failure in character.
Studies in animal behaviour have suggested that stress produces a fight or flight response in almost all creatures. I’ve discovered that I can mimic those two reactions very quickly in my head, however society frowns on me acting out with a punch, push, slap, or a hasty flight down the stairs and out the back door while shouting obscenities. (Ahem) Besides that, I have found that other F responses have worked for me in tense situations. For example, I’ve been known to faint. My favourite bird example, in stress management, is a Killdeer, who fakes a broken wing to save her nestlings. Sometimes I will ingratiate myself by fawning. Flailing about saying nonsensical things can confuse an aggressor. I may distract my opponent by fucking, flaunting or feigning my way through a predicament. Or, I can put on a brave front, but it may not last long before I beg for forgiveness.
Identifying my stressors has taken me a while to pin down, yet it has been an essential starting point to create a sense of inner peace. To most people I appear calm and obliging (It’s magic!). However, I’ve become aware and confident enough that I can say to myself and/or others; “This is stressing me out.” I try to avoid the triggers that make me want to shout those words. I’m not afraid to ask for professional help. My brain, after all, is just another body part that needs love and attention.