You have options:
Stuff your stress way down deep and get ulcers.
Meditate on the word “peace” until the knots in your shoulders melt away.
Revert to a preschool state and let ball pits, nap time, and pudding pops calm you down.
Take some hard drugs.
But the absolute worst thing you can do?
Vomit your stress all over a spouse, friend, or coworker. (You will likely ruin their outfit.)
I realized this a couple weeks ago. I was on my way out of the office after a full and frustrating day. I did not get to the things I hoped to accomplish. And as I packed up and walked out, I barfed it all over my friend Dan:
Oh, I have so much to do! I didn’t get anything done today. I had five and a half hours of meetings and three hours of interruptions! I have 75 emails I’ve not read—just from today! I need to have a difficult conversation with somebody in the office tomorrow, and I’m not ready! My boss says I have to report on that big project tomorrow, and I have a cavity to fill! I haven’t been able to exercise in weeks, my car needs new tires, it’s raining today, my kid got yelled at by the bus driver, the paint’s peeling on my house, and we have a houseguest I don’t know arriving tonight and staying through the weekend!
Barf. I threw up the vile bile of stress all over Dan, the innocent bystander. He was now covered in my stinky, orange, chunky…stress.
Did this help Dan? No way. Unless he’s really rotten—“Golly, I’m glad I’m not Adam!”—he’s pulled down by my load. He might even feel pressure to share all the ways he’s stressed, even if he’s not really stressed, just to empathize a bit. Yes, good friends bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), but I’m not sure this fits the bill.
Did this make me feel better? Not really. It can be helpful just to articulate what’s stressing us out but vomiting it onto someone else doesn’t help. It’s really a selfish move—“Oh, look at me, feel sorry for me, buy me a drink, tell me how I’m such a good victim!” At its best, this is taking mental stock of my life in the presence of someone else. At its worst, it’s trolling for assurance and comfort, while covering others in our mess.
I am stressed today. I have a lot to do. I have a lot of meetings. I am behind. Others are waiting on me. I want to do a good job. There’s not enough time.
But today will be different. Today, I won’t vomit stress on innocent passerby. (Click to tweet this.)
Am I alone in this? Do any of you barf stress on others? (Or get barfed on?)