Take your elephant on a walk

Nearly everyone has a pet elephant. This elephant’s name is stress. It hovers over your shoulder, weighs on your heart, eats at your time. Really, it doesn’t seem like a pet. It’s more like a nuisance.

The reason I call stress an elephant is because my dad used to ask me this question: How do you eat an elephant? The first time he asked me this question, I was in high school, ignorant of the stress I would later face at college and at work. Still, in the moment, my stress felt like too much to handle. I felt weighed down, and my heart, chest or head would hurt under all the pressure.

When my dad asked me how I should eat the elephant, I rolled my eyes. Why would I ever want to eat an elephant? I would stick to meats that come from animals in the US, or I’d eat vegetables. Really, I would eat anything before an elephant. Besides, why should I have even cared about an elephant if I was juggling all these other worries? I noticed dad’s twitching smile when he asked me, so I caved to his question.

“I don’t know, dad, how do you eat an elephant?”

He calmly replied, “Well, Clancie, one bite at a time.”

That is one of the many lessons Dad has taught me that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Even though my extracurricular activities—homework, classes, friends, sleep and exercise—pile up (especially at this point in the semester), I can’t conquer it all at once.

The “elephant” is too monstrous to eat in one bite. No one can fit a whole elephant, not even a baby one, into their mouth. In order to finish off this “elephant” I need to look at it one step at a time. I take a deep breath and look at the bright side. At least I have this pet to keep me company.

When I get to this point of the semester, it always seems as though Stress the Elephant morphed into a lion, ferocious and hungry for my time. I’ve learned that I can either let the stress control me or I can control my stress by slowing down.

I wake up in the morning and look outside. Whether rain or sunshine, I see God’s hand in nature. He has a big plan for me, and he will help me with whatever I need to accomplish. Whenever I feel like Stress is trying to sit on me, (as any elephant in the room might attempt), I close my eyes and breathe deeply.

When that technique doesn’t soothe me, I try other methods. Eventually, I look the elephant right in the eye and say I am its owner, so I am in control and it is helpless. Even if I still feel some of the weight, it won’t all loom over me like a cloud. Rather, it drives me to accomplish tasks.

I hope this idea puts a fun twist on your stress this semester. If you can visualize an elephant, you can laugh through the stress. Even a brief smile in the hustle and bustle of life can be enough to brighten your day. You have the tools, wisdom and strength to tame your elephant and make it your pet. Who knows, you might even create a clever name for Stress the Elephant. Whatever you’re facing, I know that you can do it.