Staying true when you're under stress

Published: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 12:52 a.m.

Do you remember Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

In Robert Louis Stevenson's classic Victorian novel, Dr. Jekyll is a respectable scientist who behaved in a totally respectable way. He had the love of family and the admiration of colleagues.

But Dr. Jekyll had a secret obsession. He indulged in a very risky experiment and suffered terrible consequences. Every evening at sunset, because he had drunk this powerful chemical concoction, Dr. Jekyll turned into Mr. Hyde - ugly, uncouth and dangerous to anyone around him. In the end, the genteel Dr. Jekyll orchestrated his alter ego's demise by his own hand in suicide. His ultimate victim was himself.

It's more than a story. We are all like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in some ways. We start our days with the best of intentions; then the world wears us down. We get going too fast, we become tired, someone says something that pushes our buttons or life brings us one too many disappointments.

Mr. Hyde begins to move stealthily into our psyches. We are not dangerous to others perhaps, but to ourselves we are untrue or downright treacherous. We speak in ways that are careless and self-defeating. We treat our friends, our children or ourselves without respect or temperance. We engage in the age-old practice of self-sabotage.

The solution? Step back and surprise yourself with some self-care that pays off for everyone:

  • Take a break in the afternoon. Totally relax yourself from head to toe. With or without music, simply lie back, close your eyes and let go of the stress that has accumulated throughout the morning. One muscle at a time, release, melt and give all your troubles to the spirit.

  • Stop, breathe deeply and listen. Experience the sights, sounds and smells of the moment - and enjoy.

  • Be kind to others. Stress can turn us into the people of war and darkness. Remember Dr. Jekyll. So what if you have to wait in traffic or someone pulls into the parking spot you were eying? Let it slide with a little smile.

  • Worship. Don't skip the most important things. Take joyful moments in community and quiet moments in solitude.

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