Yesterday I had a series of events that would have had my hands trembling with frustration and stress a year ago. However, I have been using some tools for dealing with stress that served me very well. Maybe this recounting will help you to do the same.
The day started with a dentist visit. That wasn’t the stressor. I was simply having a crown fitted. The problem was that the appointment was at 9:00 AM. The weather forecast said very hot.
Stressor number one. Normally, I would be out first thing in the morning to ride my bicycle and avoid the afternoon’s extreme heat. But, I couldn’t because I had to go to the dentist. A year ago, I would have raced off to the dentist fretting about how hot it was going to be and all the attendant difficulties. I chose not to. The dentist visit was something I needed to do and I decided that I would adjust my riding accordingly even if it meant riding in hotter weather than I would have liked. It was simply a matter of priorities. I looked at it in a positive way. When I finished with the appointment I relaxed and walked home, I didn’t race home to save seconds and stress myself further. I changed clothes, got the dog and went downstairs to the bike room.
Stressor number two. My bicycle speedometer battery had died. I needed to go to the bike shop and get it replaced. That would set me back at least a further 15 minutes. Take a deep breath; let it out slow. Okay, I could deal with that. The alternative of riding without a speedometer and odometer was not acceptable as how many miles I ride is relevant to me. I rode down to the bike shop.
Stressor number three. My two regular bike mechanics weren’t there. They are familiar with my speedometer and have changed the batteries before. I was going to be stuck a longer time as the new guy figured out the workings of the little gadget. Take a deep breath; let it out slow. Okay, it’s still a day I can ride. So, that is a plus for me. Just a little further delay to deal with. The new guy got it changed, reprogrammed and I was ready to go. The charge $3.00. No biggie. But wait, it rained the other day and I had to hang up my cycling shorts to dry out. I keep my money in the pocket. The shorts are still hanging up in the bathroom and I am wearing a different pair. I have no money! Take a deep breath; let it out slow.
Stressor number four. I now have to go back to my apartment and get the money and then return to pay for the work. A further 20 more minutes of setback. Instead of being annoyed and stressing, I thought about the fact that I would soon be on my way and the speedometer would be working. I rode back to my apartment building. Because I had the dog with me, I couldn’t just leave the bike and run upstairs, I had to put it away in the bike room, then take the dog on the service elevator up to my apartment. I go inside, get the money and head out. I return, pay my bill and I am finally ready to ride my bike.
I feel grateful that I have managed to get through all the obstacles and I am RIDING! Life is good as I pedal off to the lakefront. I survived four frustrations, lost about a half hour, but am now on my way. I did not stress out at any point in the foregoing ordeal. It was all behind me.
The bike ride is about seven miles in and I am looking for a place to take a break. I decide I will head south and relax at one of the tables by the Field Museum. They are in the shade and always a pleasant stop.
Just as I am getting ready to pedal south, I feel a slight sponginess in the ride. I had new tires put on a week ago. They are a smoother ride than the old tires. The tires I replaced had 85 pounds per square inch PSI of air pressure. The new ones only need 65 PSI, so they feel more comfortable rolling across the pavement. But is the sponginess I am feeling a result of the slightly softer tire, or is it losing air? I ride another hundred yards and realize that if I am losing air, I don’t want to be riding away from my apartment and the bike shop. I stop, dismount and squeeze the rear tire. Sure enough it feels soft. The tire is leaking air.
Stressor number five – a flat tire. Take a deep breath; let it out slow. Again. I turn around and head back to the bike shop. There is no point in getting a flat tire several miles farther away and needing to walk back for repairs. Again, instead of stressing about this I am grateful that I caught it when I did and am possibly going to be able to ride to the bike shop as opposed to walking the bike back with the dog in the basket in 85F weather.
I arrive at the bike shop and the mechanic says he can have the bike ready in about an hour. Okay, it is after 11:00 AM and it will be time to walk poochie soon, so I agree and walk home with the dog.
When I get home, I am hot from the riding and walking back in the sun. The good news is that I have a huge cantaloupe in the fridge and I can eat half of that for a rehydrating pick-me-up. Since it is just about lunch time and I find myself hungry, I also make up a bowl of my low fiber parfait and down that too.
By the time I return to the bike shop it is 12:30 PM. My tire has been repaired. There was a tiny piece of metal stuck in the tire that tore the tube. I was lucky to have sensed it when I did. I pay for the repairs, tip the mechanic and am on my way. I left the dentist over three hours ago and have achieved a total of just over seven miles instead of the usual 25 to 30 in that amount of time. The temperature is pushing mid 80’s.
The best news is that I have weathered the storm of stressors and feel fine. I have eaten and am not hungry as I take off on the bike again. I finished the day with a fine 25 mile ride. It ended later than I had expected and the temperature was hotter, but I managed to get my ride in and felt great at the end. Looking back at the seeming symphony of stressors, I am able to laugh about it. Talk about a perfect storm! I couldn’t dream that series of events up, if I were trying.
I felt good remembering some of the lessons I had learned about dealing with stress. First, stress is not caused by events alone. What we say to ourselves – our thoughts – plays a big part in the stress experience. Check.
This is from the lecture by Maggie Crowley before the Healthy Transitions Program® last May, entitled Super Tools for Handling Stress. “When we practice appreciation, we turn off the anxious instincts triggered by the stress response. The heart, brain and endocrine system work in sync and heal. It is impossible for the brain to be in a state of appreciation and fear at the same time. So, appreciation is the antidote for fear and stress.”
Instead of dwelling on the delays I was experiencing I moved my attention to more positive ideas and dodged the bullet of stress completely.
I hope these examples have been useful to you. They also shows that even retired guys can encounter stress in their daily lives.