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I’m going to write about something that I’m sure all of us have felt at some time during our lives: Stress. I’m going to attempt to redefine stress in a way that makes it more understandable and easier to manage. It is a general principle that you may apply anyway you wish, but I truly believe that the ideas I have to share with you today will revolutionize the way you do life.
When you think of what stresses you, what do you think of? It could be your studies, your work, your in-laws, or even your own thoughts. There are a whole stew of things that could potentially stress us out. (Note: my soon to be in-laws are amazing and do not stress me out at all. I love them all more than ice cream! And that’s saying a lot. I love ice cream). However, might I be so bold as to suggest that none of these things in and of themselves are stressful? Or at least, they shouldn’t be. In my mind, the stress comes when we let these and other things fall out of equilibrium with each other. Stress, therefore, can be redefined as a lack of balance in our lives. In order to illustrate my point, I’m turning to one of my favorite tools. Yep, you guessed it. It’s another chemistry lesson.
In chemistry many reactions proceed until they reach some point of equilibrium. Depending on what substances are used and what the environment around them is like, this equilibrium can be different for many reactions. This is the first connection I want to draw. Do not suppose that because your life isn’t the same as everyone else’s that you are somehow susceptible to more stress. Everyone has different circumstances and activities that they need to juggle and balance. Everyone has a different “chemical reaction” and therefore has different points of equilibrium. Find the one that works for you.
Second, there is a principle in chemistry called Le Chatlier’s Principle, which can be stated as follows: “When any system at equilibrium is subjected to change in concentration, temperature, volume, or pressure, then the system readjusts itself to (partially) counteract the effect of the applied change and a new equilibrium is established.” Thank you Wikipedia. Allow me to demonstrate this principle with a very basic example. Imagine we have four different substances: A, B, C, and D. When we mix A and B together, we come out with C and D. However, A and B don’t completely disappear and C and D don’t completely form. They all are constantly in equilibrium, existing in different concentrations depending on initial concentrations, temperature, volume, and pressure. We can illustrate this example with this image:
A + B ⇌ C + D
Imagine now that we have a solution of this reaction in a container and that it has reached equilibrium. According to Le Chatlier’s Principle, if we add into the container more of substance A or B, it will compensate by producing more C and D. If we add too much C or D then the system will compensate by converting some of it back into A and B. This happens without fail, to the extent that each reaction can maintain its equilibrium.
↑A + B ⇌ C + ↑D (Balanced)
↓A + B ⇌ C + ↑D (Unbalanced)
Now for the fun part! Let’s draw some connections. Each of our lives can be thought of as a unique chemical equation like the one above. To keep things simple, let’s just say that Substance A represents your Faith/Religion/God and B represents your Family/Spouse/Friends. Substance C will represent your Work/Schooling and D will be your Hobbies/Recreation. Each one of us, when we are unstressed, will have healthy amounts of each substance in our lives.
Now what do you think will happen if we start adding too much of substance D or C in our lives? We become stressed. Remember Le Chatlier’s Principle. If the chemical system is stressed (unbalanced) then it will naturally adjust itself to counteract the result of the stress until a new equilibrium is established. It’s so simple it’s beautiful. If there is too much of something, it cuts it out; if there is not enough of something, it adds it in. Nature follows this course of action, so why shouldn’t we?
The problem is that most of us don’t. If we are experiencing stress we usually try to compensate by using methods that don’t work. Sometimes we don’t compensate at all. For example, if we are dedicating too much time to our hobbies and not leaving enough time for family, we may try to justifying our actions and not make any changes. This can lead to even more stress, and in extreme cases, broken hearts and broken homes.
So let’s put first things first. Let’s make sure our lives remain in balance. You’ll know when it’s not because you’ll feel stressed. Stress is simply the indicator that something in your life needs to be readjusted. When my life get’s out of balance I start to feel depressed, cranky, and tired. Generally, no one is happy when they are stressed.
However, stress can lead to growth. Sometimes chemists will stress the system by adding more of substance A into the mix, but only with the intent to produce more of substance C or D in our example above. A little stress in our personal life can lead to growth in other areas, but we always need to make sure that the equation balances out. The problem occurs when we remain unbalanced for prolonged periods of time or when we don’t give ourselves enough time for the important things in life. Consider this scripture from Ecclesiastes in the Bible. “There is an appointed time for everything, and there is a time for every event under heaven…” In short, there should be a place for everything and everything should be in its place. We hope that all of you can make time for the most important things in life. We also hope that you can find balance in your life. We aren’t experts on family life, or experts on success in the workplace, or even experts in chemistry and writing, but we do know that we are all humans, that we all get stressed, and that we all need to readjust from time to time to stay sane.
Wishing you well in all of life’s adventures:)
Taylor and Kyle
P.S. This article is an attempt at helping those who feel overly stressed understand the principle of balance and why it’s important. It is by no means a comprehensive or exhaustive list of all the possible ways to have a balanced life. We would love to hear your stories, experiences, and examples of how you personally apply this principle to achieve balance in a stressful world. Let us know in the comments below!