There’s something I’d like to stress. Or not.

IMG_5128For eight years during my late wife’s cancer treatment stress was a constant companion. If it wasn’t her direct health at risk, it was the side effects. Then there were insurance and financial issues as we tried to recover from the expense and byproducts of each round of treatment.

Dealing with the stress of that took a lot of fortitude, prayer and creativity. There were times when overcoming the stress on my own was just not possible. That meant anti-anxiety drugs in small doses to get me through the night. But when it came time to wean off that medicine, it took time. It was hard to separate the controllable stress from that which could not be controlled.

As a person pre-disposed to anxiety and its pursuant dark buddy depression, there were plenty of times when stress worked like the devil in a triangulating relationship. I was also caregiver to a father who is a stroke victim. There were relational issues afoot there too.

So I went and got counseling, because sorting all that stuff out on your own is not easy. The most interesting thing the counselor said to me was simple: “You seem to be good at forgiving others. How are you at forgiving yourself.”

And that, to me, was the key to unlocking the mystery of so much stress. If you’re constantly blaming yourself for the problems you face in life, there is no way out of the stress zone holding you in a locked battle with fear, anxiety and depression.

During all those years the running and riding were vital to keeping sane. I came to appreciate that from a very young age, physical activity was my savior. That’s true from grade school on up through college. I didn’t just crave sports. I needed them. It helped me process both emotional and mental perspectives. It helped me overcome attention difficulties brought on by a creative and active mind. It did not matter whether I was diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder or not. We all have to deal with our ability to focus in some way. It’s harder of course when you have anxiety or other challenges working on your mind. You have to struggle just to maintain what other people feel as normal.

The running and riding and a multitude of other sports have always helped me wick off stress and get back to a state of mind where I can write it all down and get things done. That’s the ticket to true stress relief. It’s not just relief you need to achieve. You also need to develop solutions.

The challenge during all those years dealing with my wife’s cancer is that between the stress and the drugs to treat uncontrolled stress there were definite difficulties attaining levels of basic athletic performance that once came so easily to me. Riding with the group on Saturday mornings became a struggle similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. I had no appetite for clinging to the back of a group of other cyclists flying down the road. The stress of that was too much some days.

DisneyBikeBehindsSo I dropped sometimes. And my buddies credited it to my general moodiness at times. But it was impossible to explain in any relatable terms. I recall one week where a new rider showed up though. 40 miles into the ride when I’d hung on for that long at a 20mph average I just needed to fade back and gather my wits. Ride my own pace. Not be pressured. He asked my buds what was up with me and when they explained my situation he turned to them and said, “What are you doing up here then?”

Recently I’ve had some interesting stress in my life to do with business. I’m thankful for the running and riding and swimming because it still helps me gain perspective and a fresh outlook. But I’ve also learned to forgive myself at some point if everything doesn’t go exactly as planned. I can handle stress with the best of them. That much I know. But whether that’s what we really should do at times in life is the real question we should be asking ourselves.

Because there’s always a message in stress. Figuring that message out is the most important thing you can do sometimes. Then move on down the road.


About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @genesisfix07 and blogs at, and Online portfolio:
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4 Responses to There’s something I’d like to stress. Or not.

  1. Dan In Iowa says:

    I work part time in a group home for the mentally ill, which the name itself has a bad rep unfortunately, so I know what you’ve been and are dealing with. Exercise is huge on helping. The brain produces so many cool and addictive “up” mood drugs from that. I wish I could get more our clients to get off their butts. It would help tremendously. Hang in there!

  2. Craig Virgin says:

    Chris: One of your better blogs. Don’t know what you are facing right now in Business…. but it seems like business and economic stress has been a constant companion of mine for a decade now. I can understand how even people who are tough… can have deep anxiety some times and a challenge to hold off that old enemy, depression, at bay! Of course, if you give into depression… it only makes the challenges worse … as one becomes less productive and creative! Prevents one from creatively dealing with or fixing the situation fast! I underwent 90 days of PT along with injections of Supartz into each knee….from Nov. 1- Feb. 1… and did see some progress/improvement with both knees and balance/agility with both legs….but not all the way yet. Main culprit was left knee. They said another round of injections/PT in 6 months is usually required to see maximum return/results.

    Unfortunately, only 2-3 weeks after release from program in Feb…… I started experiencing knee pain in my so-called “good knee”, my right knee….. and it has only gotten worse in past few weeks…. even with rehab again and cortisone shot. Finally, had an MRI on it shows 2-3 tears in my meniscus and good sized “defect/”pot hole” in an important cartilage surface. I expect most of pain and swelling and instability coming from meniscus injury. Am evaluating treatment strategy presently…. and feel that surgery is probably best action. Good news is that meniscus surgery in knee is one of easiest to recover from… I am told.

    Just another challenge…. but my continuing knee problems over past 10-15 years almost feels like cancer some days… it just never seems to go away for good. Like Al Pacino in the final Godfather movie…..” I keep trying to get out…. and they just keep sucking me back in!” I may be paraphrasing some…. but Pacino…. as young Don Corleone… was referring to the crime world…. as he was trying to leave it behind and become more “legitimate” in his business dealings. Which, of course, he never was able to accomplish…. even after becoming buddies with the Pope/Vatican! Of course, the “good Pope” which might have saved him… was himself assassinated, too!

    Best to you and yours.

    Craig Craig Virgin

  3. Yes Craig. Everything you’ve said here is true in terms of your feelings about physical challenges. One of the things we experienced with Linda’s cancer was people coming up to us and saying, “I know my problems are nothing compared to yours…” and we would assure them (I hope) that indeed all our problems are legitimate. That’s the thing about depression. It has this stigma that the feelings those of us with anxiety or depression experience are not somehow “legitimate.” People who have “sad days” bounce back quickly when it is situational. But they have a hard time conceiving that someone could have a mind that functions with “bad days” or “sad days” as a starting point. Add in physical challenges that limit your ability to function and there’s a compounding reaction and result. That’s where real challenges lie. So I am very sorry to hear about the recent and prolonged knee challenges. I know that when I tore my ACL the second time I grieved. Not just for the immediate injury, but for the person that I knew I’d lost in the process. No more basketball or soccer, because I was not going to go back in and do that surgery all over again. So the adaptation is bittersweet. And age doesn’t play any favorites with any of us. They say that growing older is not for the faint of heart. Ha. Well, sonofabitch, tell me something I didn’t already know. On the business front, it’s an even stranger thing to me that people have this idea that you’re somehow washed up at age 55. It’s insane. I haven’t been experiencing that per se, quite the opposite, and the aggressive challenges I’ve laid out for myself are positive, but stressful. But I know many very good people (and myself at times) that have experienced ageism. Sometimes it starts as early as age 35!45!55!. It’s all so stupid and dismissive. And it’s built right into the hiring system here in America where we’re supposed to hide our age on resumes and all sorts of really heinous stuff that gives companies a reason to doubt credibility even as they play that evil game themselves. So all this swirls around in our heads. Which is when I turn it over to God and say, “let me know what you think.” And I always get an answer. You are loved.

  4. bgddyjim says:

    You answered your own conundrum about stressing about things. Stress is a pain in the butt at the time but as we do the next right thing in moving through it, situations right themselves. I have to concentrate on maintaining a positive mental outlook and accept that I make mistakes. We can’t always see the big picture so we have to concentrate on those things we can control… Mine are: Me, myself and I. Every time I read your posts about your wife it absolutely tears me up (and I often tear up – curse you English language)… My wife is absolutely the most awesome person I’d be absolutely lost without her. I’m glad you’ve gotten a grasp on it but marvel at how tough that must have been. Great post man.

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