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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Bell-shaped stress

Last week Geeky Mom had a post called, "Self-indulgent whining, or figuring out the meaning of life." I personally think that she was being a bit hard on herself in that title because really she's struggling with managing work stresses and how to be a good, functioning parent.

I don't really think there was much whining, more like venting. But mostly, as I read that post, I was reminded of a theory that I have that I look to every now and again as a comfort. I probably need to remind myself of this theory a little more often as I struggle with being the best parent to my son, the best wife to my husband, the best cook, the best (or at least a productive) writer. I call my theory the "bell-shaped curve of anxiety and stress."

Basically the theory is: all of the anxiety and stress in our lives falls somewhere on a bell-shaped curve. No matter how great and on track life is, there will always be something out there on the far end of that curve pushing our buttons and making us crazy. Most everything else will fall into the fat middle section of the curve, and then there will be a couple of things that really don't give us much grief at the other end.

For Geeky, she was writing about work/frazzled-mom issues, which I can relate to. That would be the thing stressing her on the far end of the curve. Let's say that then something worse than work/frazzled-mom issues come up. Then work/frazzled things get pushed down a notch and fall into the bubble part of the curve. They basically have become less significant (at least temporarily more manageable) because New Issue has come along. Or say she magically resolved the work/frazzled-mom stuff, same thing. It would move away from end of curve and something else would be thrust into that far end of the curve making her just as crazy.

I picture it as a fluid curve. Things move in and out of certain parts based on what's going on now in our lives. I'm pretty much convinced that no matter what's going on, we essentially prioritize our anxiety into manageable (or not so manageable) chunks of stress. We deal with what we can and then move on to the next thing. Even when things are pretty good, there will always be something out there on the fringe driving us crazy. Can anyone say overanalyze?

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