The Stress Spiral
There is a slippery, slimy organism that creeps into our home more often than I would like to admit. I like to call it the stress spiral.
First, thank goodness for vacations. Going on a vacation is not a luxury; it is a necessity for healthy marriages and family life. During our most recent summer vacation, over the days I could feel myself start to live in congruence with the natural pace of my body. Extended reading in bed, hanging out, relaxing meals together, casually seeing the sites, laughter, time for play, and appreciation for nature and God’s awesome creation evaporate the stress throughout my mind and body.
Vacations help me gauge the amount of stress and tension in my daily life. In addition to helping our family bond, vacations can act as early warning system to help me see action that needs to be taken.
But, after the vacation and as we drive home, I start to think of all the things I need to do: laundry, returning phone calls, unpacking, going through the mail. The stress starts to enter my body again.
Then enter a transition: the “getting ready for school” mode. The mixture of excitement and anxiety starts to create yet another kind of stress in everyone.
As the stress level rises and the demands continue to pick up, it’s at this point I often make the fatal mistake. I start letting the pressure get into me that it affects the tone of my voice. Eventually, I start speaking impatiently with my family.
Depending on what is going on with my husband and how centered he is, he may or may not engage in the deadly reaction of taking out his stress or displeasure on me. If he or I can recognize and change what is going on, we can start thwart the process. If not, things escalate as our kids pick up on our lack of charity.
Not appreciating my conduct, I started to observe a mini rebellion from my kids. They start being less cooperative, or even passive-aggressive towards my requests. Picking up on the stressful environment, they start to fight more with each other.
Our culture is excrementally fast-paced. But the external environment does not have to derail us and our family life. The good thing is that at any point, our unwanted friend that is the stress spiral can be thwarted. Any family member can and has to use his or her free will to respond and not react to it but instead smash that nasty stress spiral.
The remedy to the out-of-control stress spiral is humbly returning to God in prayer and acknowledging we need his help to be our better selves. Oftentimes, it is when God gives us the challenge to exercise the virtues of trust, patience, self-control can we build the muscles needed to truly become spiritual fit and effective instruments of God.
Catholic Women’s Guide to Healthy Relationship Tip: Accept a reality about the environment you live in, but refuse to abandon your efforts to treat those in your life with love and respect.