By Dr. Valerie A. Bussell
As a health psychologist I am very interested in how people cope with the various stressors of our very demanding and busy lives. In regards to how we adapt to stress, I often use the analogy of a rubber band.
In my analogy, all people are equipped with various weights and sizes of a single stress absorbing rubber band. Our ability to adapt at any given time depends on the width, length and strength of this band -as a measure of how much load we can bear.
Sometimes, we have great resiliency and our stress rubber bands are thick and long with great elasticity and endurance for all the stressors of life. At other times our rubber bands are thin and fragile and unable to bear much at all.
Using this analogy, the pull or demands on our “stress” rubber band can come from many directions and our stress endurance would be at what point the rubber band might break from too much stress. The breaking of our band could result in a variety of dis-“ease” – of the mind, the body, and the soul.
External stressors like the demands of our job and relationships are stretching our stress endurance band from one direction while internal pressures like personal ambitions or goals (our “shoulds”) are simultaneously pulling from the other direction. If you have great demands in all directions – the greater likelihood that the band will break and various forms of dis-ease will result.
Now in keeping with this analogy, our stress-enduring rubber bands also have a point that they are at rest – like those rubber bands stored in the kitchen junk drawer. However, unlike the real rubber bands our stress rubber bands are capable of remarkable renewal while at rest.
The usefulness of this analogy is in the importance of self-analyses from time to time to determine the state of our stress-related rubber band while also contemplating the load of stress that we are attempting to bear. Are we attempting to bear more stress than our resources are capable of enduring?
Another benefit of this analogy is to understand the importance of rest and renewal for the state of our stress rubber band and the consequences for our health.
- What is the current burden of stress in your life? Is it within reasonable limits? What can you do to reduce any extraordinary demands?
- What is the condition of your rubber band in response to internal and external stress? Is it approaching its limit and therefore putting you at risk for disease?
- Are you allowing your rubber band to rest and fortify itself with sleep, worship, and play?
In these busy times, we are demanding much from ourselves while our jobs and relationships are also requiring more and more. In terms of emotional and physical health, it is important that we take stock of our personal resources for stress (the current state of our rubber band) and also take time for valuable rest and renewal.
“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”