From the time we are born, we spend our lives adapting and fine tuning ourselves.

We spend countless hours trying to understand what makes us tick and what makes us happy. We spend time trying to fit in and even more time trying to figure out where it is that we want to fit into.

We spend time trying to understand what it means to be a good child, a good student, a good spouse, a good friend, a good employee, a good parent and a good person. We try to figure out if what everyone else calls good is really good for us or even good at all.

We listen to advice and reject advice. We read books, listen to speakers, go to courses and go to therapy, all the while still trying to figure out what the “perfect” version of us is. Or at the very least, what the working version of us is.

There are times that we think we have come close to perfect, or at least close to a version of ourselves that is pretty darn good. Finally an “us” that we can live with and are even a bit proud of.

And then it starts.

The slowly building mountain of stress. Self induced, life induced, it doesn’t really matter.

All of a sudden you find yourself with way too much on your plate. Some or even most of it can be happy and joyous things. It can be party or holiday preparations. It can be a promotion at work, it can be your kids starting school.

But none of that makes a difference, because each added straw makes the burden on your shoulders a tiny bit heavier. Even when you try to remove a straw or two, the stress doesn’t feel any lighter because it’s instantaneously replaced by guilt which is even heavier.

And you try to keep up. You try to do all things you want to do and are expected to do. You try to be the person others think you are. You try to live up to your own and to others’ (real or imagined) expectations of you.

And you think you are okay. After all you are still efficient, patient, kind and gracious.

Until that very last inconsequential straw. That tiny straw that opens the damn. The dam that lets your mean streak out, the dam that lets your nasty side escape, the damn that has been hiding all the unflattering behaviors you have tried to change and mold over the years.

Because stress gives us away. Stress is our mirror that reflects back to us how far away we are from the person we want and long to be. Stress shows us how far we still have to go.

But stress also gives us a way. Stress shows us where we still need work. Stress shows us where we should concentrate our efforts.

There is nothing worse for the ego than that stress induced look in the mirror when you realize how much more self-work you need to do. There is also nothing better than seeing the strides you have made.

I’m starting to realize that I need to do a better job learning to limit and learning to cope with stress. Because that crazy unkind lunatic who yells at my kids every so often is not someone I really want to be.

I’m also trying to remember the need to appreciate the changes, however small, I have made for the better.

How do you cope with stress?* Does it get the better of you?  

*And if you want to make me feel better, share a particularly unflattering stressed out moment you have had.

This is an original World Moms Blog post by Susie Newday of Israel, who blogs at New Day New Lesson.

The image used in this post is attributed to Mommyof4Ruggies. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

Susie Newday (Israel)

Susie Newday is a happily-married American-born Israeli mother of five. She is an oncology nurse, blogger and avid amateur photographer. Most importantly, Susie is a happily married mother of five amazing kids from age 8-24 and soon to be a mother in law. (Which also makes her a chef, maid, tutor, chauffeur, launderer...) Susie's blog, New Day, New Lesson, is her attempt to help others and herself view the lessons life hands all of us in a positive light. She will also be the first to admit that blogging is great free therapy as well. Susie's hope for the world? Increasing kindness, tolerance and love. You can also follow her Facebook page New Day, New Lesson where she posts her unique photos with quotes as well as gift ideas.

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