It looked like a script from a sitcom. I brought my car to the service department for its annual state check. I was told “Wait in our waiting room”. “It won’t take more than 30 minutes.” Some of those 30 minutes were spent browsing a magazine filled with articles on how to relieve stress. The stories were accompanied by detailed advertisements of the nutritional supplements, probiotics, amino acids and parts of plants that supposedly induce calm, resilience and resilience in times of stress.
No car or service representative showed up after more than 45 minutes to tell me my car was ready. I learned that the reason, after I found my service representative, was that “my car was lost”. No one knew what floor of the large service department it was on and no one knew if it had been searched or not. The service representative was very upset and told me he was about to quit. This was the third time that day a car had been lost. My stress levels rose and after another 30 minutes, I was told the car was there, but had not been inspected by the state.
As a service rep as I tried to solve the problem, I wondered if it was a good time to find the nearest health food store to get a stress-reducing product guaranteed. I can share it with the service representative and he probably won’t quit his job. But finding the car and eventually getting my inspection sticker seemed like a simpler solution to reduce my stress.
The type of stress I experienced was acute and like any acute stress, it was caused by unexpected, uncontrollable (think of being in a plane during a thunderstorm) and severe. But unlike chronic stress, the cause was more likely to be resolved or reduced (the car was found, the plane flew by the lightning) within hours, a day, or so. Dealing with a source of stress that does not have an immediate solution is different because, like chronic pain, it can become more and more difficult to tolerate the longer it goes on. However, advertisements and articles about how an infinite number of products can reduce stress do not differentiate how they can help with acute stressful situations or those that persist and drag on. And none of the articles or ads talked about how to deal with feelings when the adrenaline starts to wane, because the period of acute stress is over.
A friend whose mother was in the early stages of dementia is often acutely and unexpectedly nervous when her mother goes missing. She said, “I’m going through these periods of great anxiety, but luckily it’s short-lived because I have a lot of trackers on it. But when I find it and bring it home, I feel a kind of secondary stress, a kind of ‘what if’ I don’t find it? And then I have to To do something to calm her down.” When I asked her if she used any supplements, amino acids or probiotics, she laughed and said she did what her English grandmother used to do when she was stressed, “I drink a cup of tea with a lot of sugar and eat a few cookies.”
Her treatment to reduce her stress levels to manageable levels is not only simple, but natural. Unlike commercially available stress relief products, many of which are berry extracts or synthetic amino acids, various minerals or vitamins, etc., the sugar in tea and the sugar and starch in cookies are natural stress relievers. They do not directly reduce stress. Instead, their consumption triggers a physiological process that leads to increased production of serotonin. The increase in serotonin also calms and calms emotional disturbances caused by stressful situations.
Most providers of advice on dealing with acute or chronic stress agree that talking about it is helpful. So-called catharsis usually elicits empathy, understanding, and compassion. Sometimes laughter results when some aspect of a stressful situation seems silly or strange. My story about my lost car sparked disbelief at first and then laughter. Most of us have lost cars in the parking lot, but no one has ever lost a car in the service department.
Distraction also helps by breaking up the repetitive repetition of the event in one’s mind. It’s often hard not to visualize or even describe an ambulance ride, a dreaded plane ride, or a lost relative over and over again. Doing something that requires your full attention may help you stop focusing on the stressful event. Mind games that can be played on mobile or discovering a complex knitting pattern may be enough to stop the stress scenario from repeating in your head.
Writing down the details of the event is another way to reduce its emotional impact after it’s over. Your computer or paper document now contains all the information and feel free to leave it.
Exercising, especially doing something vigorous, can release the tension and even anger that seems outwardly in your muscles. This is especially useful if the stressful event involves you being the recipient of a potentially adverse event such as a car accident and your body holding on to the stress you felt. If you have the opportunity and time, taking a strenuous exercise class that requires your attention (in addition to your effort) will reduce your stress. Swimming is a good alternative, because it exercises your body but because you are in the water, without any risk of high-impact exercise.
Unless one lives in a bubble similar to the Garden of Eden (before the Snake), it is almost impossible to live life without stress. But laughter, carbs, and exercise can go a long way to helping your emotional state return to normal after it’s over.