THE MENTAL HEALTH CONCERNS COMMITTEE

A student-led initiative to improve mental health awareness at Wabash College and across Indiana. Check out some of our student-writers below​!

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Stop Building the Snowman’s Butt

I’m certainly not the first to point out that the nature of stress is cumulative, but it’s surprising how often I have a conversation with someone who hasn’t thought about how their own lives reflect that fact.


It’s easy to recognize the impact of seismic events sporadically placed throughout our lifetimes and these are typically what get blamed for snaps or flares of instability.


This is a dangerous fallacy.


A much more accurate depiction of why people breakdown can be developed using the analogy of a snowman’s butt.


Imagine for a moment that you are attempting to build that first giant snowball for the base of a snowman. What do you do?


You form a very small snowball and then continue to let it roll while packing in the snow and forming it as you go to best suit the oncoming terrain.


Stress works in much the same way.

Part of the human condition is an inherent desire to feel that we can handle any challenge that comes our way.


People of my generation have an abundance of unhealthy coping methods learned from the past couple generations (looking at you baby boomers) such as ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away and refusing to feel the emotions that we were born with and add to the fullness of our existence.


Couple these two traits and we are left with a situation where people want to handle their stressors by themselves (BAD) and do so using ill-advised coping mechanisms.


Going back to the metaphor of the snowman butt, think for a moment about how we like to mold our stress as we go through our daily life.


I would argue that most people I know, including myself, have a habit of letting our stress build and build while forming or steering it one way or another in order to deal with the “terrain” of life.


Now, try and picture for a moment that you have been working very hard to form and keep this snowball in check and then suddenly the bully from across the street come across and dropkicks your snowman butt.


How would you react?


You would feel furious, saddened, confused, rejected, and understandably overwhelmed.


Of course, in the grand scheme of things the snowman isn’t something that is that vital and you can always make another, but that doesn’t mean that our work to keep our snowman butt safe didn’t matter to us.


Our emotions and the stress associated with managing them is the same way. We want to take care of ourselves emotionally, but we do so by allowing them to build and build over small additions that form something large and important to us.


When we put considerable effort into an endeavor that is so personal, we must also acknowledge the opportunity for something we can’t control, aka the “bully”, to come through and give us a good ole dropkick from life.


If we don’t, we will continue to avoid dealing with our emotions like this and allow our snowman butts to become too big.


This results in truly stressful situations impossible to deal with because the stressors we have refused to deal with haven’t been properly dealt with yet.


Allowing some stress to exist is a natural part of living because not every stressor is that big of a deal, and we should be able to comfortably tuck them away in order to not let them ruin our day.


This article is not me saying that we should go out of our way to blow up every little thing into something that requires you to take a mental health day.


However, finding a reasonable limit to the amount of stress we are willing to take on before we stop and relax is essential because if we get to where we have no room for little stressors, then the big ones that get thrown our way will put us down and out.


Whether that relaxation is going for a walk, taking a long lunch, or calling an old friend, whatever you enjoy, we need to stop building the snowman’s butt before it gets big enough to bury us.


-Spencer Newmister

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