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Off the Wall, Aug 28, 2009

Think back for a moment when you were a kid. Most of us had it easy. We were fed, clothed, and even driven places. When special days occurred, our parents made sure we were a part of every activity one way or the other. Birthdays were a big thing, watching fireworks relatives and neighbors had purchased for our entertainment and exciting in gifts we were given for Christmas all ranked high on the top of many childs’ list.

Throughout the years, life was virtually stress-free. Sure, there were the banged-up knees, brush burns from playing ball and cuts and bruises that were never expected, but somehow appeared when we least expected them. That was all part of being a kid.

I think as schooling began, tension was also introduced. No longer could mom or dad pass those tests for us. We had to go seven of nine yards ourselves. The parents made sure we had cleaned, ironed clothes, got to school, and paid for our lunches, but from there we were on our own.

If I were to state the real stress began in high school, that would prove to be false, at least in my case. The pressure was there, but not the stress. Now it could be said they are one of the same, but I beg to differ. Pressure is a force pushing one in a direction. Stress is doing the same thing, but feeling very nervous all at the same time.

When I went to high school, I felt a certain inclination compelling me to get good grades. But, I didn’t have the foggiest notion what I was doing once I graduated, and so I didn’t really give it my all. I felt the pressure to do well, but really no stress.

Upon entering college, I was filled with determination and a wanting desire to do the very best I could do. I went in with a plan and came out with two degrees. Still, stress didn’t affect me most of the time because I worked hard, started reading assignments and writing papers when they were assigned most the time, and even divided my time systematically so that I could work as well as study and attend classes.

Stress stage one entered my life when I became employed by the local newspaper. Being editor of a whole page on college news and taking photos for it while going to school taught my mind to pull back on the reins of some things and work on priorities on others.

I’ll never forget the test I was given by the managing editor. I was to cover a golfing competition whereby 28 foursomes were taking part. I was to photograph each between 2 and 3 p.m. and have a picture for each player at the country club by 6 p.m. that evening. I arrived at 6:30. Couldn’t have done it without my trusty motorcycle and the help from two staff photographers. That, my friends, was full blown stress in the first degree.

Stages two to four happened after I left the first newspaper and was hired by another where I was a photojournalist and later employed by an industry. The latter is where I experienced stress in capital letters and didn’t know how to handle it. I was hired by a gent who promised to teach me everything there was to learn about industrial photography. Once I left the newspaper, I felt motivated to learn more. What happened I didn’t see coming. He bawled me out for everything I didn’t know. As a result, I ended up in a hospital suffering from hyperventilation. Since then, I have found myself in similar situations – all feeling pinned in a corner with no where to go.

What I’m about to disclose, I learned from experience, is something of which everyone should make note – how to handle stressful times: (a). Pray to God for help, believing He will answer your wishes, (b). Seek support of friends and family, (c). Have confidence that along with God’s help the situation can not only be controlled, but rectified, (d). Have an optimistic attitude, (e). Learn how to deal with your emotions, and (f). Know what to expect when a certain situation arises.

Now that school, including college, is getting underway, realize that stress may be a part of the picture. No little pill will relieve the symptoms. If allowed, stresses can “getcha” in a big way if you don’t see it coming. Learn, early on, how to deal with it. The rest of your life may depend on it!

- Paul J. Volkmann
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