8/02/17

On stress ... and manly Muppets (Yes, you read that right)

By Kiley Owen, PA-C

Ever notice how the silliest things can stress us out?

Family Vacation

happy kids in the back seat of the family carMy family and I recently went on vacation, which entailed a six-hour car ride. For shorter trips, I don’t usually let the kids watch TV or play on electronic devices. (They can read, draw, or argue with each other instead.) But for longer trips we do allow some movies. This helps to protect everyone’s sanity.

Our vehicle doesn’t have a built-in TV, so we hooked up a DVD system that was given to us several years ago. It involves two screens that buckle around the driver and passenger seats (facing the back seats), a DVD player, and several cords that typically get tangled up everywhere.

Oops

Earlier this year while doing some heavy-duty decluttering, I donated all of our DVDs to Goodwill (because everything we watch these days is streamed). Unfortunately, this meant we now had only one DVD for our trip -- a scratched-up Muppets movie that was left in the DVD player from our last trip.

My husband and I were prepared to pick up a Redbox rental, but the kids seemed to enjoy their Muppets movie, so we didn’t worry about it.

Everything was running pretty smoothly. The kids watched their movie in back, and my husband and I listened to the audiobook Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek up front. (A requirement for a police captain’s test he will take next month. I learned some good stuff from it, too!)

We needed to stop and get gas. We paused the audiobook, exited off the interstate, and pulled up to a stoplight. As the car quieted, there was singing from the kids’ movie. The singing got louder… and louder… and then it became super-annoying as we tried to figure out where we needed to go but couldn’t hear ourselves think over the singing. 

Stress

As my husband and I scrambled to find a volume switch, our stress from this (suddenly very LOUD) song was apparent.

Then something happened, and the stress was lifted away. My husband and I both paused at the same time. We then gave each other confused looks that asked, “What in the heck are we listening to?”

What the. .. ?

I switched my attention from the volume of the song to the words, which (very dramatically) sang:

Am I a man or am I a Muppet
(Am I a Muppet)
If I'm a Muppet then I’m a very manly Muppet
(A very manly Muppet)

Am I a Muppet (Muppet) or am I a man (Am I a man)
If I'm a man that makes me a Muppet of a man
(A Muppet of a man)

Oh my …

I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a more random song in my life. I couldn’t help but laugh at this ridiculous song. (If you would like the full experience, you can listen to it here.)

I realized in that moment that the culprit of our heightened stress level was a “manly Muppet.” Seriously, it doesn't get much more absurd than that.

Getting a Grip on Stress

happy couple relaxing together in the parkAs I’ve written before, stress can affect our health in detrimental ways. But stress is part of life, and we can’t completely avoid it.

Some of the things that stress us out are for good reason. Yet others are a bit ridiculous. This becomes apparent when we take a moment to pausestep back, and see the situation for what it really is.

What are the “manly Muppets” in your life? What are some silly things that you allow to have too much negative power over you? Some things that come to mind for me are:

  • Voluntarily committing myself to activities that I don’t want to do (Learn to say no.)
  • Too much “stuff” cluttering my house (Get rid of the excess... But maybe keep a handful of DVDs for long car rides.)
  • Computer updates at work that lead to multiple pop-up messages while I’m trying to do charts (Nobody’s dying. It’s just a computer. Calm down.)
  • Being stuck in traffic (Getting irritated won’t get me there any faster.)
  • Others’ drama and gossip (Don’t get involved.)
  • Impatience with my kids (Their job is to ask a million questions and argue with each other. That’s just part of the gig. Pause before reacting.)

The next time you find your stress level rising, I encourage you to pause, take a step back, and look at your situation (in a detached kind of way). 

Ask yourself, “Does this situation warrant this degree of stress? Or am I just letting a manly Muppet stress me out?” :)

Kiley Owen is a physician assistant, blogger and preventive health enthusiast. This post — along with helpful links to other resources — originally appeared on her blog, makinghealthapriority.com.