I am usually heard saying that I live a very stress-free life, and it is true that very little fazes me.
It helps that I have complete control over my schedule, and if I pack too much on my plate it is my own doing. I also limit my exposure to the news and do not watch on TV scenes of catastrophes that I can do nothing about.
But this week I got stressed – in a major way. The reason? My dog Mr. Darcy. All of a sudden not doing well and giving conflicting messages. Eating and drinking okay but being lethargic, and once being barely able to walk, and the next moment walking just fine.
It was interesting for me to observe my own stress response to a powerful trigger. It was a situation from which I could not remove myself but had no means of changing. I could literally feel the stress hormones circulating in my body. The punch in the stomach! Sleep – forget it! Food – don’t even think about it! Off to the emergency vet we went, at least one action I could do. My favorite vet was on call, and my stress was down by half immediately.
Having an absolutely phenomenal veterinary specialty hospital nearby, he has been checked out inside and out, and I am optimistic that the reason will be found and that Mr. Darcy will soon be his usual self.
This experience made me think about stress in general. The perception of helplessness is for most people the greatest cause of the ‘stress response’, not the cause itself. I still maintain that all stress is an ‘inside job’, even if it is in situations that most people would characterize as stressful.
One of my standard pieces of advice is to say that – in a stressful situation – you may only be able to control the way you think about it if otherwise you do not have control. I still believe that it is sound advice even though I was not exactly a paragon of self-control when Mr. Darcy was not feeling well.
But I trust that he will soon be his own tail-wagging self again, and that I can return to my serene unstressed advice-giving persona.