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arabian-camel.jpgThanks to everyone who commented on my “4 Ways to Roll with the Punches” post last week, in which I wrote about the aftermath of a kitchen renovation mishap.  In the comments, lots of you talked about how you stay sane when weird frustrations sneak into your life.

Then there were some readers who were thoroughly annoyed with the post.  You said things like, “How ’bout you find something else to worry about? There are people out there that have REAL problems!”  And, “If this is the worst of your problems you are sooo lucky.”

Those words gave me pause, and got me thinking–as your comments always do.  Not in a defensive “but isn’t my kitchen countertop problem the most compelling situation to ever befall a human being?!” kind of way.  More in a “you’re right…and if this were the worst of my problems I would be so lucky!” kind of way.

Which brings me to the idea of symbolic stresses.  Do you have those?  You’re going through a hellish period in your life where capital P-Problems are threatening to pull you under.  You’re coping with loss, financial stress, relationship angst and more, and yet you’re managing to put one foot in front of the other and stay functional and fairly calm. 

Then your cell phone dies, and you burst into tears in line at Starbuck’s. 

Ta-da!  Symbolic stress.

That’s what the broken kitchen countertop was for me – the symbolic stress that (almost) broke the camel’s back.  I’ve shared on this blog that I lost my grandmother a few weeks ago, and that our move brought with it some existential angst–but the summer has been tough for me in other ways too.  Kind of awful, actually.  And I’ve found that the juxtaposition of stressors has really tested my time-tested coping mechanisms.  I’ll be plodding along and realize suddenly, hey – why did I stop eating right, meditating, talking with friends, laughing, and doing the myriad other things that I know work in the quest for peace, joy, and perspective?

I’m a big believer in rehearsing good, smart life skills.  So for me, the symbolic stress of the countertop was an opportunity to practice coping in a way that might smooth out my neural pathways enough to get me back on the “peace, joy, perspective” path.

So.  I’m hoping that we can continue the conversation.  When you’re in tough straits, do you ever notice symbolic stresses?  Do you practice your coping skills on cope-able issues?

Also – my deepest condolences, Jeanette, on the loss of your husband.  And Joyce, I hope your job situation improves very soon.

(image via: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/dromedary-camel.html

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