Coping With Stress
Life is so fast-paced and complicated that we often cannot keep up with it. We can get so stressed out that we don’t know where to begin. Occasionally, we may feel overwhelmed. Sometimes, nothing in particular is bothering us. We just want to get off this treadmill. Discover how you and develop the skill in coping with stress.
CAUSES OF DISTRESS. Some stress is good for us. It motivates us to move forward. Some people work better under a deadline. Indeed, some people create stress to motivate themselves. They may wait until the last minute to do something. Then, before they know it, something gets out of hand and they experience more stress than they can handle. Too much stress becomes distress. Some causes of distress are change, time restrictions, interpersonal problems and guilt. Too many changes in a short period of time, good or bad, can cause distress. The biggest cause of distress is feeling out of control, overwhelmed or unable to handle a situation. We are without hope. Distress will kill us physically if we let it and it will kill our spirit. Don’t let it do that to you. You have a choice.
There is a part of your brain that does not know the difference between what you are doing and what you think you are doing. If you think unhappy, defeated thoughts, your brain will do whatever it takes to make them come to pass. It’s called self-fulfilling prophecy. However, thinking happy, pleasant thoughts is much less stressful for you and those thoughts tend to happen, also. The right side of the brain is creative and emotional. It brings about what you believe.
The three areas where distress gets a stronghold are your feelings, thoughts and circumstances.
Changing your life is SIMPLE, BUT IT IS NOT EASY.
FEELINGS. How do you feel when you are distressed? Do you want to stay in bed and hide under the covers? Ignore your feelings. When you do something you do not feel like doing, do it first and get it out of the way and then reward yourself for doing it.
If you’re willing to take the time, take two notebooks. In the first one, write down all the negative feelings you have. Label them at the top of each page. Here are some examples.
- Whatever is upsetting you
- Write the names of each member of your family
Write down everything you want to say about each subject. When you’re finished, take it someplace private, read it out loud and then destroy it. This gets some of your negative feelings out in the open and once you have written about them, they tend to have less influence in your life. You will find your distress level becomes more manageable.
THOUGHTS. Your thoughts determine your feelings. When you change your thoughts, your feelings will also change. Recognize a negative thought. Your mind is talking to you all the time. Encourage yourself. Develop a support system. Have people you can call to encourage you, friends who are nonjudgmental with whom you can discuss your thoughts.
Worry occurs when you have done everything you can and you’re still thinking about it. Decide not to worry about something until you have to. If you have something due next Tuesday, and you have done all you can, make a decision not to worry about it until Monday night.
When you worry, instead of reacting emotionally, create a plan. See yourself working the plan. Get a clear picture of the results you want. Have a goal. Be very aware of your goal. Create your workable plan to reach your goal.
In your second notebook write down every positive thing you do or something nice that happens to you each day.
“It Takes Nine Positives to Counteract One Negative” ― Anonymous
CIRCUMSTANCES. When you believe that you have no control over your life, stop and think about all the circumstances over which you do have control. You control what you eat, when you go to bed, what, if anything you watch on TV. The list goes on when you think about it. When you concentrate on areas under your control, the out-of-control areas diminish.
When faced with a stressful situation, think about the worse possible thing that can happen and how you will fix that. Whatever happens cannot be that bad.
“Accept that some days you’re the pigeon, and some days you’re the statue.”
― Roger C. Anderson in the Rotarian
- Dejunk your life. See Simplify Your Life, page 125.
- Create patterns. This frees your mind.
Example: Put your keys in the same place every day. Brush your teeth immediately after eating breakfast every day.
- Use a punching bag or a pillow to get rid of frustration.
- Improve interpersonal relationships. See Build Healthy Relationships, page 85.
- Understand your personality style. See DISC Personality Styles, page 7.
- Be truthful with people. It creates a great deal of stress to maintain a lie.
- Ask others for information. Draw on their ideas and support.
- Make relationships a priority. Pay attention to other’s needs. Listen to them. Care about them.
- Share your personal feelings with someone you trust.
- Create quality time for others. Make sure it’s a time when you’re not too tired.
- Focus on the positive in people, not on how they annoy you.
- Giving sincere praise, not flattery, is essential in a healthy family relationship. Praise is based on a specific situation or characteristic. “You did a great job cleaning up the kitchen.” Flattery is vague and seen as manipulative. “You’re such a nice person.”
- Focus on future goals.
- Do not bring up the past.
- Emphasize mutual objectives you can work on together.
- Be open to new ideas, thoughts and experiences.
- Keep yourself healthy. Eat healthy food. Use sugar and/or caffeine in moderation.
- Exercise can prevent depression and relieve distress.
- Get as much sleep as you need.
- Soothe your soul with music.
- Do one thing at a time.
- Say “no” to requests that stretch you to your limit.
- Buy gas for the car before the tank is empty. Get regular oil changes and checkups, anything to keep your car in good working order.
- Keep food, toilet paper and toiletries on hand so you never run out. Keep one to use and one to store. When you use the stored one, buy another one (or two). The same goes for anything you use on a regular basis and can store.
- Keep duplicate keys for home, car and office in secure locations.
If you are experiencing a stressful period in your life, take care of yourself and remember that it will get better. Keep your days as simple as possible, doing only what needs to be done for the moment.
Get your support group pulling for you and encouraging you. Get the care you need while you are handling whatever is causing your distress.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
- How do you behave when you are under stress?
- What areas cause you the most stress, thoughts, feelings or circumstances?
- Do others pay a price when you are distressed?
- Do you want to change?
- If so, what can you do to help reduce your stress?
- Are you willing to begin today?
- What will you do today to begin to reduce your stress?