This blog introduces you to my special brand of BIKE. I show you how to find your Best self, access your Inner strength, tune in to your Killer instincts, and use your Expressive voice. It's inspiring, spiritual, quirky, and it's all in your head. It's about ATTITUDE, not exercise, though that might be a side benefit.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How to measure your stress level

Many, many years ago, in a land far away...

Just kidding.

But it sure seems like it, now that I'm thinking of this story I want to tell you. It involves me, the mom, and my daughter. She was in her teens at the time, and we clashed constantly. It seems now as if that was a whole other lifetime ago, as she's no longer the bratty 16-year-old who wanted what she wanted when she wanted it. Today, she's a mature small business entrepreneur--and a mom herself. Big relief.

But many, many years was a different story. And I was reminded of that story this weekend while looking through a book about taking risks. Inside the front cover I found the SRESSDOTS. Yes, THE Stressdots. You see, daughter and I were in counseling together at one point, trying to work out some differences. Yes, they were that dramatic that we needed to pull in a third party. Anyway, this therapist had decided she'd offer me biofeedback. So she hooked me up to the monitors and told me to sit back and relax. Moments later, she mentioned my daughter's name. Wouldn't you know it?! Just the mere mention of my daughter's name sent the needle upwards and off the charts. I kid you not.

So said therapist sent me home with a package of Stressdots and the accompanying form that explained how they work. She wanted to help me focus on relaxing when I had to deal with my daughter. This was about the same time that I had started using Post-it Notes to stick messages up all over the house, encouraging me not to engage the girl. I literally wrote "DO NOT ENGAGE (Her name)" on the tiny yellow sticky notes--in all caps--and stuck them all over the house...on my bathroom mirror, on the stairway banister, on my computer screen, on the cabinet face near the home phone.

Boy, did she get ticked off about that. But I stuck them up anyway, and stuck them everywhere I could think of to remind myself not to get into it with my daughter. You couldn't win. Everything turned into an escalating argument. Like I said, she wanted what she wanted when she wanted it. Even though she didn't get it, she would not stop trying. She'd land herself a good grounding...from the phone, her car, whatever...and she still would not stop trying to get me to say yes to whatever it was she wanted that I was saying she couldn't have or do. Like the never ending time she bugged me to let her go to Rave parties.

"No," I told her. "They are nothing more than places where kids can get drugs. So, no, you're not going. Besides, they don't even start till after your curfew. End of discussion."

Before she'd stomp upstairs she'd scream, "Do you have to research EVERYTHING?"

What parent wouldn't?! I stood firm on the things that I know deserved a firm footing. And the Post-it Notes came in handy after the repeated message kicked in.

I'm not so sure about the Stressdots. Inside this book cover were the two nearly complete packets full of them, and I can't recall how often I even used them.

But at least when I look at them now, thank goodness, I can laugh. But not back then. Back then--and I'm talking more than 15 years ago, more and less--I was a basketcase trying to deal with that girl. She argued or debated everything. She would NOT give up. Now, this was not a child who was deprived. She had her own room in the house. She owned guitars. She acted in community theater. She had her own car, fully insured. She got decent grades. She was very active in extracurricular programs in and outside of school. She had a job so had money on hand. She should have been a happy-go-lucky kid, you would think. But she was a hormonal mess, and I got to be an intimate part of that. Yay me.
Finding these Stressdots reminds me of all that. So I pulled one off and stuck it on the back of my hand, between my thumb and index finger, as you're supposed to do, to see where my stress level is now. Blue. Dark blue. That means I'm good. I'm more relaxed than I was back then. Way more relaxed.

Like a mood ring, these little sticky dots change colors. The bluer the color, the more relaxed you are. As the color changes from blue to turquiose to various shades of green to brown, it means you're less relaxed. When the dot turns black, you're at your worst in terms of relaxation. That means you're really stressed. Back then, I can imagine the dot must have been black a lot.

Today, my color's violet blue, and I'm not feeling stressed at all. Thank goodness for that.

But now I'm interested in experimenting. So I'm going to wear the stress dot all day today and see what happens with the color of the dot.

The way it works is this: When you experience stress, the skin temperature on your hands generally drops. As you relax, it rises. The Stressdots somehow reflect those changes and respond by changing color. The point being: when you realize your body is feeling stress, you can take steps to manage it. The explanatory card they come with suggests using deep breathing as the first line of defense.

So it's funny that at the same time I find the Stressdots, my boyfriend is going through a few of his own challenges with his boys, out of their teens, but still young enough to cause some stress. Funnier still is that his niece and her husband teach yoga and breathing classes. Not knowing anything at all about his challenges, they invited us both to take part in the breathing class coming up on Sunday. We're going to go and check it out. Since I know his challenges are even worse than mine were, I know he can use some stress reducing tools to get through it all.

When we go, I'm going to bring the Stressdots to wear so we can both continue this experiment. If they really work, I'll let you know.

What's your first line of defense when stress strikes? 


Tia Bach said...

So interesting (and I so relate with an up and coming teenager). It makes me think of the mood jewelry my children wear. Thanks for sharing!

Anjuli said...

interesting- stress dots- boy I think mine would be black all the time :)

bookworm said...

I have a dysfunctional "first line of defense" when I am stressed-I eat. And eat. To counter that I try to chew (sugarless) gum-try to keep some handy. The stress dots sound fascinating. I'll be interested when you post on if they work or not.

BIKE LADY said...

My experiment: How do you control room temperature? I'm getting my hair done. The room is freezing. The dot is turning aqua and nearing the brown color. No fair! I step outside, where it's hot as you know what. The dot returns to its happy dark blue state. Not sure if you can do this in anything but a controlled room temperature environment. Also, I'd forget I had it on and wash it off in the shower or when I was brushing my teeth. Used up four of the dots in one day! Experiment failed. But I'm still going to wear the dot all next week and report in again. BF was at a conference so couldn't participate with me. This weekend, maybe...