An Aside: Stress and Shadows

Photo by Rendiansyah Nugroho on Unsplash

What does stress look like for you? What I mean is, how do you begin to act when under stress? These days that we are living in are stressful. There is a lot of change happening all at once. In the face of the change and the resulting stress, how do you respond?

As I reflect on my inner world I am realizing that in the midst of the stress my shadows are coming into fuller picture.

What do I mean?

First, I am more aware of the underlying anger in me. It is right there beneath the surface. It translates to being short with folks and a significant lack of patience. I seek out arguments and fights that I haven’t even been invited to. I’m looking to “destroy” something. All of us have these shadows and they are constantly crouching at the door. It requires us to be vigilant. When stress is added to the mix, we are managing that stress and often don’t have the emotional, mental, and spiritual reserves to keep the shadow at bay.

Second, even though I’m intentionally looking for conflict I am also finding that I have this desire to withdraw from those closest to me. I don’t want to share my emotions or feelings. I want to be the one who has it all together and is cool as a cucumber. Yet, the emotions that I pretend I don’t have are fluttering right under the surface. I am not comfortable with them and so there is a desire to hide. This hiding or withdrawal from those closest to me simply feeds the first beast, the anger. So, I get more chippy and less patient.

So the cycle continues.

I am learning that a couple of things are helpful to fight against the shadow from cycling. First, I need to do something physical. My wife and I have been taking walks together almost everyday. These walks fill me and empty me in all the right ways. They fill me with connection and embodied presence as we connect with one another and see neighbors. They empty me of extra physical energy and allow me to come to a place where I can manage the shadows. The emptying of extra energy slows me down and as a result I am able to focus on the moment I am in.

Second, I need to stimulate myself intellectually. I am reading some academically difficult texts in my field of expertise. The challenge to my thinking allows me to engage in conflict and release the pressure of the shadow towards a book. It is fascinating to watch the pressure build and release as I practice this intellectual exercise. After reading something difficult I find that I have little need to engage in conflict via other means.

So, what does stress look like in your life? How are you managing it? Share in the comments!