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Putting Down Stress

Updated: Oct 8, 2023

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired, “How heavy is this glass of water?” Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed—incapable of doing anything.”

It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down!

Think, for a minute, about what causes stress in your life. Perhaps you juggle a lot of roles and responsibilities. Maybe you are trying to figure out how to pick up the children from school as the conference call is running late while the new puppy is ready for potty break number three. Perhaps you are feeling stressed because you are working as hard as you can, and your income is still insufficient in meeting all your financial obligations—college tuition is an outrage these days! Maybe you are newly retired and have lots of free time, but the lack of meaning and purpose is creating a sense of unease and restlessness.

We all carry our share of burdens. Burdens aren’t harmful as long as we can remember “to put it down” as instructed by the psychologist and that glass of water. Perhaps part of our purpose in life is finding out how to put down your glass of stress on a regular basis in order to successfully manage anxiety, worry and disease and consequently enjoy enduring happiness. For me, walking with my dog Koda in a forest setting is a good start to putting down the glass.

Heidi Schreiber-Pan, Ph.D., is a successful psychotherapist, clinical director and sought-after nationwide speaker on topics of resilience, anxiety, neuroscience, and occupational burnout. Her latest book, “Taming the Anxious Mind” is being released on March 1st, 2019.

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