“ For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction” – Sir Isaac Newton, 3rd law of Motion.

One thing we know about life is that its moves. It moves on and on and sometimes in all the moving things happens that we aren’t expecting. Like Newton’s law of force, life has a tendency to put a noticeable amount of pressure or force on those it’s happening to. This post isn’t about science, but merely a correlation between an observable law in nature that works in our lives and self-care. Life is Force A. It’s constantly applying pressure to us. Things happen, and that’s just the way it is. But in Newton’s 3rd law of motion, he observes that for every action, Force A, being applied there is an equal and opposite reaction, Force B. When the forces of life act, do you have an equal and opposite reaction?

Stress has a way of pressing down on us until we feel too overwhelmed to do anything. We panic, then freak out when things go awry with no consideration of how our response effects the very situation that is stressing us out. Stress and anxiety stem from a fear of the unknown. Mention midterms, work evaluations, or health test results and whatever season of life you’re in that force puts fear in you that automatically sends you into stress. How can we learn to push back on the forces of life with an equal and opposite reaction?

The first step is acceptance. This word is hard for some people, but let’s apply it to the most simple situation. It’s the end of the night, and the house is a wreck and the to-do list just doubled for tomorrow. Instead of stressing, why not just accept that those things didn’t get done today? One of the definitions of acceptance just means to tolerate an undesirable circumstance or situation. Some things in life happen and the only appropriate response is acceptance. Accepting stress in our life, even if we don’t agree with the situation, allows us to push back on the forces of life with an equal and opposite reaction.

The second and the arguably most important step is an appropriate response. One weekend I was out of town and came home to a dirty house. I readily accepted the fact that my husband decided to procrastinate washing the dishes, but my response wasn’t appropriate. Me slamming dishes in the sink and being rude to him when he volunteered to finish them wasn’t the right way to respond. Accepting that little, but equally irritating moment of marital disagreement was an acceptable reaction. Me using “my words,” as we call it in childcare, was an even more appropriate response. Many times responding appropriately means letting go of things you can’t change. Other times it’s simply communicating when you’re frustrated or stressed. After a few hours of arguing, I simply told my husband that I get overwhelmed when I come home to a messy house after a weekend away because I can’t relax with the dishes in the sink calling me to clean them. He took that little information and made it a point to clean up the next time. But I also took that moment and learned not respond differently when life happens, and people drop the ball.

The cool thing about the third law of motion is that it’s essential in aerodynamics and aviation. In life, it’s impossible to be successful and “fly” if you don’t learn to push back on the forces of life. Life is going to happen to all of us. It’s inevitable, and you cannot avoid it. But cowering in fear, frustration, and defeat when life’s stressors come, merely keeps you in the same place. Learning to push back on stress gives you the power you need to overcome situations. Responding to undesirable situations with an appropriate response and a sense of acceptance gives you the right amount of opposite force to propel you into success over that obstacle.

What are some areas of stress in your life? Can you find a small one that you can push back against with the simple force of acceptance? Try responding with acceptance and a positive attitude and see if it helps you overcome that situation with more strength and empowerment.