Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Waterwheel of Life

There are many strategies we can use to either manage or reduce stress. However, it might be helpful to understand why stress overload is such a concern and why we need to take it seriously. Here is an illustration.

Picture a stream of water flowing over a water wheel. As it flows over the wheel, it turns and creates energy. When the stream of water remains relatively constant, we can manage its effects.

But imagine what happens if those water levels rise higher and higher. Soon, this predictable stream becomes instead a raging river with incredible destructive power. Now, when this increased powerful stream of water flows over the water wheel, it begins to spin faster and faster until at some point, it can longer use the water to create energy, but instead is broken by its intensity and force.

If we are that water wheel and the stream of water is life, then when life runs along fairly smoothly and predictably, we, like the water wheel, have no trouble adjusting to the fluctuating levels of demands. The stressors of life (water going over the wheel) create life energy, and when the levels rise and fall, we adapt and compensate. This up and down of stress levels is continual and normal in our lives, and even when high levels are prolonged for short periods of time, we are able to meet the challenges, adapt and soon life evens out again.

It is when the stressors of life remain at flood stage, like the raging waters of a swollen river, creating a non-stop intensity, that the water wheel (or our ability to compensate) can no longer handle the relentless torrent of stress and like the water wheel we begin to break down and are rendered useless.

In my next podcast, we will examine some of the many different "tributaries" of life that dump stress into our life as we explore ways to manage our stress.

©2010 Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

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