Taking Control

Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Stress Could Save Your Life," this week's issue of Newsweek heralds on its cover, and I sit down to read just how. I read the theories about how stress spikes adrenaline and after that comes cortisol and how in the presence of both muscles are flooded with energy, and not only that, but the brain grows sharper—more sensed up, more survival primed. Turn on that "stress-hormone switch" at the right time, and you might just go super hero when you need a dose of super hero. (Leave that switch on, however, and damage gets done.) Pregnant women who are stressed may be giving birth to babies with better-stimulated brains. Stress may help us solve more problems, faster.

It all comes down to control, apparently. "...if we feel we're in control, we cope," Mary Carmichael, the story's author, says. "If we don't, we collapse." The key to now, Carmichael says, is determining "what parts of our future we can control" and "engag(ing) with them thoughtfully."

I'm all for that. I have, in fact, been discovering, in these tricky times, the outright power of dreaming small dreams bigly (and of making up words, because it's my blog, and I can). Of recomposing my idea of the perfect day. Of taking the time to do things that I had to hurry past before. I can control how I watch the sky, how I fashion meals, how I arrange the day. I can count as an achievement a cleaned-out closet or a page of prose that perhaps no one but myself will read. I can say to my friends, Join me in this, and be happy when they do, and I can hold these things as central even as all that I can't control spins on—the fate of books I write, the status quo with clients, the headlines that keep blaring.

I can't fix most of what is wrong out there (or any of it, frankly). But I can make it a point not to add to the problem—to be lighter on my feet, to ask for little, to give more. I can use the stresses of now to my advantage, and I will try. I don't see that we have another choice.

(Oh, and for the record, I wasn't driving when I took this photo. Imagine the stress I'd have added to the world if I'd been.)


kristen spina said...

I love this post, Beth. "Dreaming small dreams bigly"--that's what I want to do.

Alea said...

That was the first thing I thought of, "I hope she wasn't driving when she took that picture!"

woman who roars said...

The photo is fantastic - the dichotomy of uncontrollably hurtling thru space (TY for not driving while photographing ;-), but towards a destination you've (hopefully) chosen fits so well with your post ~ and the Newsweek article.

Beth Kephart said...

You guys are all the very best. Each of you seeing something different in this blog—all of what you see being something I hoped someone would. I am the Neighborhood Crazy, Sierra and Alea, but I don't endanger others with my craziness (though once, when in a traffic jam, I did take photos, but no one was moving).

And Kristen: You can do it. The little things. Big.

Anna Lefler said...

That is one of the ultimate luxuries: having control over one's day...one's life.

And occasionally dropping the reins as well.



Sarah Stevenson said...

"I can't fix most of what is wrong out there (or any of it, frankly). But I can make it a point not to add to the problem—to be lighter on my feet, to ask for little, to give more." I really like that. It seems like something achievable, something we can all manage to do.

Thanks for the change in perspective!

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