When Stress Brings its Own Antidote

A little bit of stress can be good for us. It can perk us up, energize us, get the blood flowing, and push us to move forward. A body reacts to stress by releasing chemicals which cause, among other things, a rise in heart rate and blood pressure, which facilitates fight, flight, or, as the case may be, finishing a paper before a deadline.

But constant stress is not good for us. Those chemicals which facilitate our fight or flight response damage blood vessels over time, make us gain weight, and make us lose sleep. So it’s important to find ways to negate that stress: deep breathing, exercise, meditation – regularly practicing these techniques helps protect and heal both mind and body from the ravages of excess tension.

Of course it’s sometimes hard to remember to breathe deeply or to take a walk when someone ticks you off while you’re in the middle of doing something else. Just yesterday morning, I had difficulty remembering to breathe deeply or take a walk when one of my sons ticked me off while I was doing dishes. The off-ticking issue involved a cell phone and a snarky comment accusing me of an invasion of his privacy (which I had not, in fact, committed, although it would have been well within parental perogative to have done so), which progressed into a gruff, teeth-clenched, really-not-overly-polite-or-nice-on-either-of-our-parts exchange of words and glares. This exchange lasted about 20 seconds, at which point another son entered the room, heard the argument, and said, “Oh, the reason your text message had been opened is that you plugged your phone in my spot overnight and I thought it was mine.”

Brief exchange between the two boys. Smart-alec comment from the other son who had observed the whole thing. A “Sorry Mom, my bad,” from the originally obnoxious one. A few more sarcastic jabs and laughs among the three boys. I smiled a bit but was not yet ready to let go of my annoyance, so I went back to loading the dishwasher while continuing a tirade in my head.

And then the most beautiful sounds from the piano came wafting in from the living room. It was the kid with whom I was trading snarls just moments prior, playing a song he knows I love. And my anger melted away just as quickly as it had flared up. The lilting melody, the rich harmonies, the sheer beauty enveloped me. I turned off the water, walked into the living room, and watched my son’s fingers fly along the keys as his body leaned into the emotions of the song and swayed with the rhythm.

I sat and listened. And watched. And loved. And forgave. And my shoulder muscles relaxed. And my blood pressure returned to normal.

Damn, the kid’s good.

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