In dealing with stress that is beyond our control, it is not the stress itself that is the problem; it is our reaction to it.
Stephen Covey addresses this in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He says there is a gap of time between a stimulus and a response where we can choose how to respond. For example, if my wife becomes angry with me for no apparent reason, I can respond immediately by lashing out at her, and a stressful battle ensues. Or I can choose not to respond immediately and reflect that she didn’t sleep well last night and that’s probably the reason for her short temper, and think, “Things will be better when she gets enough rest.” So I don’t react to her anger with my anger, and there is minor but not major stress.
Then there is the angst of what will happen when Iran develops a nuclear warhead and puts it on a missile aimed at a target in the United States, perhaps where your family lives. What possibly can you do about that? For one thing, if you are a believer, you can trust that God has the master plan of the universe and nothing happens without His permission and purpose, and you can pray about that. You can keep your feet moving in the meantime by contacting your congressional and senate representatives, urging them to do everything in their power to keep Iran from getting the Bomb. And you can join a group of those who share your sentiments and be part of a larger effort. I am not making a political statement here but rather giving you an example. If your emphasis is to avoid war by avoiding dangerous confrontations, you can follow the same path.
Or what if your spouse leaves you, which happened to me long ago, before I became depressed, and it threated to overwhelm me. “What can I do? My life is ruined.” Then my friend Tom brought realism to my dilemma. “Don’t let yourself be miserable forever. Give yourself a year to heal and you will be your old self again.” That became the thought that fit into Covey’s gap. But Tom was wrong about one thing. It didn’t take me a year. After six months I met a wonderful young woman and we were married in a year. My life became so much better than it was before.
So if you are in stress and/or depression because of something you can’t control, use Covey’s gap to bring yourself into a more realistic assessment of your situation. If you would like me to be a second pair of eyes, make a general comment in the comment section and I will contact you by your source information for a private correspondence, or you can click on “About Patrick Day” at the top of this blog to see how to contact me.