The Stress Mess
“Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life.” To that, I say preach on, Marilu Henner. Preach on.
Generally speaking, I like to think that I’m cool, calm, and collected. Even in the most stressful situation, I can generally keep a clear head and at least appear to have it all together. Full disclosure, I’m stressed out. Like so many of you reading this, I like to pack as much onto my plate as possible. While I thoroughly enjoy my commitments and endeavors, that doesn’t mean that the sheer volume of it all doesn’t stress me out.
Stress may be inevitable, but how we choose to address it or not to address it is our choice. Feelings of stress are normal psychological reactions to the everyday events in life. MayoClinic.com states that “your brain comes hard-wired with an alarm system for your protection. When your brain perceives a threat, it signals your body to release a burst of hormones to fuel your capacity for a response….Once the threat is gone, your body is meant to return to a normal relaxed state. Unfortunately, the nonstop stress of modern life means that your alarm system rarely shuts off.”
Without acknowledging it and utilizing some stress management techniques, high stress levels can literally make us sick. Enter what I like to call, “The Stress Mess.”
If we do not address stress management, our bodies will stay on high alert, which can lead to serious health problems over time. Here are four great tips to deal with stress from PsychCentral.com, in an article by Donna M. White, LMHC, CACP.
1) Nothing and no one can “make” you feel anything.
How you feel and the way you deal with a situation is a choice. I’m reminded of a counselor who would often state “no one can drive your car unless you give them the keys.” You cannot control others’ actions, but you can be responsible for your reactions.
If the situation cannot be changed, such as an illness or the economy, accept it for what it is. Accepting does not mean giving up. By accepting the situation and finding ways you can cope with what cannot be changed, stress can be drastically reduced.
2) Exchange attitude for gratitude.
Our attitude has a profound effect on how we deal with situations. Negative attitudes affect our physical, spiritual, and mental wellbeing.
When you are running late for a meeting because you are stuck in traffic, change your attitude. Instead of being frustrated about the traffic, find some gratitude. Look around and think of all the things you can be thankful for. Sometimes you can find gratitude in the smallest things. You can be thankful for life, health, strength, friends, family, nature, etc. Focusing on gratitude can definitely change your attitude.
3) Relax, relax, relax.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life, sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves. If we do not help ourselves, how can we effectively help others? Relaxation rejuvenates the body, mind, and spirit and leaves us better equipped to handle stressful situations when they come.
Try to find something that you enjoy and do it every day. Try to set aside a designated, uninterrupted time and stick to it. Many people state they don’t have time to relax, but relaxation does not have to be time-consuming. Relaxation can include periodic 5-10 minute breaks of breathing exercises or watching your favorite show for 30 minutes. Relaxation can also include connecting with positive people.
4) Look at the big picture.
Evaluate your stressful situation from a “big picture” point of view. Ask yourself “how important is this?” and “will this matter in the long run?” If the answer is no, it’s likely not worth your time and energy.
I’m not a religious person, but I find the serenity prayer to be the best reminder for me to keep my stress managed and in check. It states, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Perhaps something as simple as a quote is all you need to get out of the stress mess, and put life all back into perspective.