In episode 75 of How To Matter, I focus on stress: good stress, bad stress, and bad bad stress. The article below serves as the handout for the episode and explores bad bad stress in a family context. Regardless of the context, the signs of stress are fairly similar and equally problematic. In the podcast, I offer a tip for dealing with bad bad stress.
Restlessness and not being able to relax are the first signs of stress. Your baby is a little more fussy than usual for no obvious reason. Toddlers and preschoolers have more trouble getting along with each other. Younger children are irritable, cannot find anything to do, and expect you to give them all your attention. Your teen is in a mood but either will not or cannot tell you what is wrong. You do not care and wish people would just leave you alone. Part of you wants to fix it and the other part wishes they would all disappear.
You cannot concentrate on anything or anyone. Your thoughts are jumbled and you are up-tight and frustrated. Your uneasiness will not go away. You are afraid and angry at the same time; and if you get control of it or them or yourself, you think you will feel better.
Others in your family are having trouble too. They are unhappy. You cannot quite put your finger on why but know all is not well. They are preoccupied and unhappy with everyone and everything; and nothing you or anyone else does helps.
Stress is taking its toll. You are anxious, frustrated, and resent people who are so overly sensitive and touchy. Stress wraps around you and is hard to shake off, whatever you do, wherever you go. Fear and resentment, anger and frustration are just there. Maybe you know why, but probably not.
Stress exhausts you. You are not loosing the struggle but are not quite winning either. The outcome is anyone’s guess. If you had a crystal ball telling you everyone will be fine, you would be okay. Even better to know it will not take very long. You would settle for being sure it will not get worse. Not knowing, not having control, and fearing even less control are at the heart of your family’s stress.
You are a little up-tight or perhaps your fear overwhelms you. You are irritable or maybe your anger is nearing an explosion. You are tired or on the verge of collapsing. Whether a little or a lot, stress is scary, frustrating, and draining.
“Get a good night’s sleep. You will feel better in the morning.” This sounds like good advice. You may still be up-tight and frustrated but at least you will not be so exhausted.
Here is the catch. If you get to sleep, stress awakens you and does not let you go back to sleep. At times, you cannot get to sleep at all. Whether you cannot sleep or are awake listening to your spouse or your child toss and turn, stress has come to live with you and your family.
Stress also causes bad dreams and nightmares. Bad things happen. The world is strange. In your dreams, you may do weird things, more bizarre than anything you ever thought about. Your dream lets you know how out of control you feel down deep inside. Stress keeps you on-edge. Headaches, an upset stomach, and generally not feeling well may be caused by stress. Other problems might be the cause; but stress is often the culprit. Crying very easily or times when you cannot stop crying also are signs your stress is getting out of hand. Loosing your temper quickly and easily or getting angry about things that normally do not bother you are certain signs of too much stress and too little control.
Is stress getting the upper hand in your family? Here is the fact of it. Problem stress is not a condition your family has and others avoid. Stress gets the best of all families on some days and threatens to pull the family apart at times. The question is whether you recognize your family’s stress, see what it can do and is doing, and whether you manage it successfully or let it do you in.