Going the distance

Feel under siege? Don't forget you have control

By Edward T. Creagan, M.D. January 23, 2010

I recently returned from some speaking opportunities in Ireland with some powerful observations to share with you. I think you'll be able to relate.

My flight from New York City to Shannon, Ireland, was canceled because Ireland was in the grip of one of the coldest weeks in its history. I witnessed the two general reactions travelers have in this type of situation. Some expressed anger, frustration and rage at the airline personnel, even though they obviously weren't at fault.

Others exhibited a quiet acceptance of the inconvenience and respectfully inquired about options and alternatives. In other words, the latter acknowledged that there was nothing they could do about the weather or the flight, but they also understood that they could control their attitude and reaction to this nuisance. They were proactive in looking for solutions. And they certainly seemed a lot happier than the first group.

A good reminder that although we can't control everything that happens in our lives — not financial meltdowns, political decisions or other people's behavior, for example — we can choose how we react to these circumstances.

We're bombarded with messages, phone calls, emails and text messages, and yet our brains aren't much different from those of our ancestors who walked on their knuckles.

We have to remember and respect our limitations.

If we don't find moments of serenity, whether in an airplane or on a quiet walk, our circuits become overloaded and we become exhausted. Constant exposure to demands and expectations increases bloodstream levels of stress-related hormones, such as cortisol, which in turn raises our blood pressure and blood sugar, and blocks our arteries.

We need to chill; we need to unwind. We need time alone to reflect and think. And by the way, we need to recognize that fatigue changes our personalities. When we're jet-lagged, hungry and dehydrated, we have a short fuse and tend to overreact even to the little stuff.

This isn't brain surgery, but sometimes we need to be reminded to take care of ourselves. What did I miss?


Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

Join the discussion at #Stress.

Jan. 23, 2010