How do you Handle Stress?

Do you get stressed out?  What stresses you the most?  Could we avoid stress?  These are questions that you have probably heard before and will probably hear, over and over, again.  In this fast-paced world, that we live in, we encounter numerous stressful situations.  We all have different ways of handling stress.  Some people seem to have a higher tolerance or leniency, while others are not able to handle it, as well. Stress has often been attributed as the deterrent cause of many illnesses, including heart disease.  Have you ever tried to control your stress level?  It might add a few years to your life.


In a lecture given by Dr. Wayne M. Sotile, at a cardiac rehabilitation center, in 2010, he went on to describe that stress is a normal part of everyday life.  Anything can be a stress factor, the importance is how we deal with it.  If we dwell on the reason that caused the stress, and cannot move past the issue, we then cause ourselves to strain. Strain becomes dangerous and eventually will start to affect our health.


One of the examples that was given to illustrate this fact, was to picture the following situation: you are driving your car, down a residential street, on your way home, from a day at the office.  You’re anxious to go home and feed your family and get away, from all the anxiety from work.  The radio is turned up pretty high, as you enjoy your favorite tunes; you quickly make a mental note of what day it is and which of your favorite TV shows you will be enjoying tonight.  All of a sudden, a dog darts out in front of your car, you quickly panic and slam on the brakes.  The screeching of your tires startles all the pedestrians walking on the sidewalks, everyone is staring at you.  You are so scared, your heart is beating like a drum, your teeth are grinding, you have a cold shiver down your spine and your hands are getting ice cold, from clenching onto your steering wheel, so tightly.


From the corner of your eye, you catch a glimpse of the gray dog, with a blue collar, quickly limping, past your front bumper. You  let out a great sigh of relief, knowing that the dog is not dead, even though he’s limping, because he is hurt, but it not a bloody mess. Your mind just went blank. You’re apparently peaceful ride came to an abrupt end.  A crowd of pedestrians start to gather near the car, some of which did not even see the dog run in front of your car. One by one, they start talking amongst themselves and looking at you to see your next reaction. What do you do next?


About 90% of the people, answered in the following manner.  They were really relieved that the dog was not dead, but they wanted to know who the irresponsible owner was who let the dog loose.  Where did the dog come from?  Was there a fence? Did someone have the dog off the leash? I know I am not going to pay for the vet bills, because it was not my fault!  I couldn’t see the dog!  I did my best to stop in time.  Let me call my friend or spouse and tell them what had just happened.  The conversation would probably sound something like this,” You’re not going to believe what just happened to me, this is some crazy stuff.”  Did you ever wonder, what the dog was thinking?


Does this sound far-fetched, from the way, that you would react to this? I know that in the past, that would have definitely been my reaction, only a little bit more intensified.  This example basically shows that we cannot control stress, but we could control the way we deal with it. Once the event has taken place, the manner in which we proceed afterwards can affect, our lives, for the next couple of minutes, hours or perhaps, even days. It is human nature to sometimes dramatized a situation and cause ourselves and others a great deal strain.  If you stop and think of how many times we encounter stress during the course of our days, it could literally become a way of life for us. Does it really matter where the dog came from, or where the owner was, or whether it escaped from a fenced yard, or off the leash? All these things,  would be relevant, if we could turn back time.  The reality is that it did in fact take place and now we have to deal with it, as best, as we can.  I also mentioned, if anyone wondered what the dog was thinking; the reason for this is that animals do not have a tendency to live in strain.  That poor dog just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible, and tend it’s injuries.  The dog wouldn’t have stopped to bark at you, tell you what a lousy driver you are, or why you weren’t paying attention to the road, or flip you the bird.  Its instincts was just to get out of there and avoid any more possible pain or injury.


It is inevitable that we will encounter stress in our lives, the objective is to not let it fester and diffuse it as quickly, as possible.  If you do not dissolve a stressful situation, you will still be caught up in the moment, when the next stress factor will come along.  It will start to compound one on top of another and will eventually lead to unhealthy outcome.  This does not only affect you, but it also affects all the people who surround you.  How often have you been around somebody who is grumpy or aggravated?  How do you feel after dealing with somebody like that?  It is not pleasant for anyone.


This is not something that you can change overnight, but if you make a conscious effort to deal with the stress factors and not let them consume you, you will feel more relaxed and attentive to your health.  One of the simple ways that  this could have been handled differently is the following: the initial fright of striking the dog is something that could not have been unavoidable. Having been grateful that the dog was limping and not seriously hurt should have been of some comfort to you.  It could have been a lot worst or perhaps have been a child or elderly person. Do you really think that the owner of the dog would have subjected the animal to such danger?  If you have pets of your own, I am sure that you would not want to be notified that your pet, accidentally, got out of the yard and got struck by a vehicle.  When you call your spouse or friend to tell them what happened, are you looking for comfort or are you looking for validation to your actions?


The next time a stress factor is presented in your life, are you ready to reduce it down to size?  Life is very precious and if you learn to handle the hardships that are presented before you, I guarantee you will appreciate and savor the best moments in life.





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German (Sal) & Milja Saldarriaga
Fort Mill, SC

I am available for lectures, consulting, life coaching, motivational speaking, interviews and appearances.

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My Life Experience

  • Retired New York City police officer
  • coping with heart disease since 1996
  • had defibrillator/pacemaker implanted in Oct 2003
  • had Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) implanted in September 2009
  • Received heart transplant September 2010.
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