How do you handle stressful situations? With so much going on in my life and in the lives of those around me, I thought I would share my current method of escape. Some people exercise. Some people read. I’m eating ice cream – and lots of it!
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been in a bad mood and everyone has noticed. I have had a tough time maintaining a good poker face – both at work and at home.
On the work front, things have been quite stressful as I try to balance the needs of the people at my plant with the expectations laid out by senior management.
On the home front, things haven’t been quite as stressful, but living in a home with three young daughters who think they are teenagers presents its own set of challenges – especially as the start of the school year gets closer and closer.
As I write this post, I am not asking for anyone to feel sorry for me or to be overly concerned about my emotional well-being. Most of my stress is self-imposed, and I am managing it just fine. There are many people in my life both near and far that are dealing with far more adversity than myself.
Over the past few weeks, I have had many friends and co-workers deal with things like serious injury of a love one, a family member with a severe illness , or even the death of a loved one. I have had three friends who have recently lost their fathers to various illnesses. Another friend’s mother is seriously ill, and the doctors aren’t 100 percent sure of her diagnosis or prognosis, and on top of that, she was notified she would no longer be employed once she is well again.
I also have a co-worker whose mother-in-law may have had a stroke today. I have another friend whose elderly mother had surgery to repair a broken leg after a fall. And finally, I have three friends and co-workers who are dealing with the loss of a wife, a mother, and a mother-in-law. All of these people are dealing with more pain, stress, and sadness than myself. That’s for sure.
On the family front, my brother-in-law and his family are dealing with a much more emotionally draining and stressful issue – the return of their adopted son who doesn’t want to be part of the family. It’s a long story, but it’s one that involves mental illness caused by neglect at a very young age – long before the family adopted him and his older sister. Fortunately, she has adapted well, but she still has a ways to go.
So, there are lots of things going on and lots of stuff to think about. And that’s one of my problems.
I can’t stop thinking!
My mind is constantly churning – trying to figure out the right thing to do at work, trying to think of the right things to say to my friends, family, and co-workers or what I can do for them in their time of need.
On the work front, I have what author Jim Collins calls in his book Great by Choice – “productive paranoia.” When things are going fairly well, I’m never happy with the status quo. I live in fear of missing something – not anticipating the next challenge. I’m always planning for that next step. I don’t like surprises. I also worry a great deal about the well-being of my people. According to people who study leadership, this is what I’m supposed to do.
On the home front, I think about other things. With school approaching and Carrie returning to work, I think about how we will manage all of our activities while still having some time for each other. Family time is very important, but the way things are shaping up, it looks like we’ll have something going on every night of the week. I am going to try to play softball again (Carrie says I’m too old), and the girls have soccer and dance and band and and and….
Again, there are people with bigger problems than me, and I admire them for how they handle their respective situations. I also try to learn from them. Is it their faith that helps them get through it? Is it their friends or their family that help them? Are they just so mentally and emotionally strong that they deal with it on their own and in their own way?
For me, I stop and eat ice cream!
I know. It sounds crazy, but almost every night, I immerse myself in a bowl of ice cream. Some nights it’s Ben & Jerry’s Cake Batter or Americone Dream. Other nights it’s Breyers or Mayfield Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Some nights it’s just plain old Vanilla Bean ice cream with butterscotch sauce.
It’s my way to escape. It’s my way to focus on something that’s good and sweet and tastes great. It’s kind of like a reward for myself for a hard day’s work, and it’s great stress relief.
When people are stressed, they sometimes eat pizza or chocolate cake or if you’re like my wife, Carrie, anything chocolate will do. Others read books or write blogs. Others like to cry. Others listen to music. Others call their friends to vent. Many people use exercise as a way to relieve stress.
Right now, I eat ice cream. And yes, I just ate a bowl before I started writing this post.
Now, I don’t recommend my ice cream habit to everyone. It hasn’t been particularly good for my waistline. I’ve recently had to loosen my belt a little, and I’ve noticed my shirts feel a little tighter (I think that’s because Carrie leaves them in the dryer too long, but I won’t dwell on that too long…). But now that I’m going to play softball again, I hope it will start to disappear.
It should disappear, right?
Either way, if you look at what Mr. Roosevelt said in his quote above, life isn’t always going to be easy, and those who deal with adversity well are often times some of the most admired. How a person handles a stressful situation can have a huge impact on those around him/her. There have been many leaders through the years that come to mind. Abraham Lincoln. Moses. Herb Kelleher (CEO of Southwest Airlines). All have handled adversity in different ways and succeeded – even in the face of imminent disaster.
So, when things get tough, turn your mind off for a few minutes and escape to a happier place. If it’s reading your Bible – read your Bible. If it’s playing video games, play video games for a little while.
For now, I’m going to keep eating ice cream. I just bought a new flavor to try – Mayfield Snickerdoodle. Cinnamon cookie flavored ice cream with cinnamon cookie pieces.
Sounds awesome to me. How about you?
Have you followed the royal birth this week? Based on the amount of media coverage, you really can’t help it, can you? How would we feel about a royal birth if America had its own King and Queen? Let me know what you think.
Over the past couple of days, all forms of media have dedicated countless man hours and resources covering the birth of Kate and William’s first, yet to be named child – The Prince of Cambridge. I’ve been amazed at the level of attention that this event has received from our American media (although I’m not surprised).
Huffington Post has provided real time updates – noting that today at 9:47 AM (US EST), two pizzas were delivered to the service entrance of St. Mary’s Hospital. They also noted that after giving birth to a child she deserves to eat anything she wants. The media also reported that Kate’s parents arrived at the hospital at 10:15 to visit the newborn prince, and Carole was wearing the £335 Orla Kiely ‘Dancing Girls’ tea dress in pebble — a lovely choice to visit her grandson. I guess that’s some important stuff.
I also learned that a hairdresser was dispatched to the hospital prior to the first appearance by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their newborn son. Finally at 2:12 PM, Kate and William exit St. Mary’s Hospital. We found out almost immediately that Kate wore a baby blue bespoke polka-dotted Jenny Packham (her favorite!) dress and looked gorgeous. I’m running to the store right now to get Carrie one of these dresses.
As I have been forced to follow the coverage of the royal birth (mainly because it’s the first thing that pops-up on the AOL home screen), I’ve asked myself how America would really feel about this event if we had our own royal family? Many Americans have followed the birth of this child as if it’s the most important thing going on in their lives. The question I ask is: Why? Why are we drawn to events like these? Why are we so drawn to celebrities and the lives they lead? How would we treat events like these if America had its own royal family? I think I discovered the answer to my question last night.
Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a business dinner with two gentlemen from the United Kingdom – one from England and one from Scotland. Over the course of the evening, the subject of the royal birth came-up in conversation – of course. And it was quite apparent that their level of interest in the royal birth and in the royal family was limited at best. When it came up, they didn’t even know that the child had been born at 4:24 BST (again from Huffington Post). Our host knew the details, but our guests really didn’t seem to care. She seemed puzzled by the situation as she assumed because they were from the UK, they would be drawn to the event like many of us here in America. In this case, they were not.
And I think I understand why. The royal family has been part of their everyday lives since they were born. This is normal stuff. This is part of their culture. These guys were around for the birth of Prince William and Harry. They have lived through multiple royal weddings and divorces and multiple scandals. Since we Americans don’t have our own royal family, we have chosen to live vicariously through the royals of England. We are drawn to the pomp and circumstance of the royals. The traditions, customs and rituals. The mystery of the life of the Queen and her family. We, as Americans, are enamored by it. We have parties to celebrate the weddings, the birth of royal children, the royal polo matches, etc. Following their lives is an escape from reality. For many, it’s just entertainment.
Part of me finds a great deal of humor here. Part of me is saddened by it because there are more important things going on in the world. Part of me understands the need to escape from reality – to follow the lives of others. It feeds our dreams. What child doesn’t want to be a movie star or a princess or a famous singer? Who doesn’t want to live in a royal castle? My middle daughter is totally drawn to Taylor Swift. My oldest daughter loves to watch and listen to Selena Gomez. Fortunately, neither of my girls like Justin Bieber (thank goodness).
So for those of you that have followed this event from the beginning, I hope they name the baby boy soon so we can all move on with our lives and see other headlines on the AOL home screen. You would think they would have come up with a short list of names over the past nine months. I’m thinking George or James. Those are two royal sounding names.
We should know something soon. I can’t wait.
If you were Jewish, would you live your life as a Christian?
Would you try to hitchhike across America without a penny to your name?
Would you walk across the street to spend quality time with your neighbor?
These questions and many others will be discussed in my most recent post.
While I was on vacation at the end of last week, I took the time to read a couple of books – actually finish one book and read another. As a chemist with a sociology degree, I am drawn to the nonfiction realm. Lately, I’ve been on a biography/memoir kick. Most of the stories involve a person/author who feels the need to live life outside of their comfort zone. The author is normally at a point in his/her life in which he/she wants to do something different. He/she wants to interact with people that they wouldn’t normally interact with on a daily basis – to experience new things.
To have these experiences normally means leaving a job, their home, friends, and family. In some cases, it means living a totally different life – like a devout Jewish person living a year as a Christian as I discovered in Benyamin Cohen’s book, My Jesus Year. Or hitting the road without a penny to their name to see if society will still open up their lives and their homes to complete strangers in Mike McIntyre’s The Kindness of Strangers.
The common theme in each of these books is the author’s reliance on others – normally complete strangers – to help them discover their purpose or achieve his personal mission. For Cohen, it was living life as a Christian to gain a greater appreciation for his own religion. For McIntyre, it was hitchhiking across the United States penniless, relying solely on the kindness of strangers.
How many of us today would even think of stopping to pick-up a hitchhiker? Apparently people still do. People from California to the coast of North Carolina stopped to help McIntyre achieve his mission – travel the country without a penny to his name.. And very rarely were they middle class people like you and me. They were mostly people of limited means who knew what it was like to be in McIntyre’s shoes – penniless, living off the kindness of strangers. For me the book sent a powerful message, and made me question how far I would go to help others.
When I read Cohen’s book, I asked myself: How many people would take the time to share their beliefs with a non-believer or even with fellow believers? Could I do it? In the book, Cohen shared his experiences with people from many different faiths – Mormons, Baptists, Evangelicals, Monks – and how their faith helped shape their everyday lives. They all opened up their lives to a complete stranger – in this case Cohen. As I read the book, I was a bit envious. I have a hard enough time sharing my thoughts and feelings with my wife – much less a friend or a stranger.
So, you’re probably asking, Delton what is the point of this blog?
I’m not telling you to run out and pick-up hitchhikers or to run tell your wife or your friends your innermost thoughts and feelings.
The point I’m trying to make is don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Experience new things. Be kind to people you don’t know. Share your thoughts and ideas with new people. Build a relationship with a co-worker, a fellow church member, or even build a stronger bond with your husband or your wife or your children.
Get to know your neighbors better. As I’ve read in a number of publications and books, many of us hardly know our neighbors. We are strangers in our own neighborhood. So learn more about your neighbors and their families – not just what they do for a living or where they’re from. Have a deeper discussion. You never know when that neighbor could make a huge impact in your life or you in theirs.
What do you think?
I am not one to discuss politics, but as a South Carolinian, I have enjoyed following the race for the House seat in the First Congressional District. South Carolina has a rich history of controversial politicians from Strom Thurmond to Mark Sanford. Let me know what you think.