As I sit on my front porch on a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon, I began thinking about how to talk about stress and why we need to understand stress. When I begin an overview of stress, I like for the person to have an understanding of what stress can look like to them. So let’s talk about cartoon characters. Have you ever wondered if you have a cartoon character that is similar to you?
Now you might be thinking “this woman is crazy” or “what does cartoon characters have to do with stress.” I’m here to tell you I am not crazy and indulge me for a moment. The latter will become clearer. People think about stress as something that “overtakes” them; something they cannot wrap their heads around. They are always wondering why when they are under stress certain things seem to happen to them. As I’ve written about in earlier blog postings, stress is the body’s response to something that overwhelms us or threatens us. And how we respond to it is where those cartoon characters come in to play. Let me break each of them down for you.
The first character is someone who always feels angry, overheated, very emotional. This person has that “wants to fight” response. Someone who cannot sit still. If this sounds familiar to you, then you would be described by psychologist Connie Lillas as having your foot on the gas. She uses driving analogies to describe stress. However, I like to look at cartoon characters. I believe one can remember them better. So using my cartoon characters, someone who is having this type of reaction to stress would be a favorite of mine: Speedy Gonzales. When I think of this reaction to stress, I always think about him and how he would just go “wide open.” He was considered the “Fastest Mouse in all Mexico.”
The second reaction to stress is one that has their foot on the brake. This reaction is one of a “flight” response. The person is withdrawn or has a depressed attitude. They shut down or draw away or have very little emotion or energy. Now most people would say this character would be Winnie the Pooh’s friend, Eeyore and you would be right. For those of you who remember the character “Droopy Dog”, that’s who I immediately think of when I look at this reaction.
The last stress reaction is someone who has their foot on the brake and the gas at the same time. This person “freezes” under pressure. The person may look paralyzed but underneath they may be extremely agitated. I sometimes think of that picture of the iceberg above and below the water and the meaning of it. I also think about someone that on the top is very calm but underneath is spinning and spinning. I think you can guess who I associate with this cartoon character. If you immediately thought of the Tazmanian Devil, you would be correct. When I think of this person, I immediately think of that cartoon character.
So you may immediately think of yourself as one character or another. But we can be many characters at once or one or another at different points in our lives. Most days I feel like I am the Tazmanian Devil because I feel like I am always running around “like a chicken with its head cut off” but then sometimes I am Droopy Dog/Eeyore but then other days I am Speedy Gonzales. So don’t think just because you associate with one character today does that mean you are always that character. Stress can rear its head and be all three at once or none of them but knowing how to manage your stress is the MOST important. If you’d like to know more contact me so we can talk. As for now, just know that these cartoon characters can be managed.