In life we are bombarded with deadlines, demands, frustrations, and circumstances or simply put, STRESSORS that create tension in our lives. For so many people stress has become a lifestyle; they feel stress and are unconscious as to what is causing it or are unaware as to how to remove it from their lives.
Not all stress is bad, stress is force exerted onto oneself, therefore we can use stress to propel us to take action and get something done. For stress to be good it has to come in a small dosage. Ideally the stressor, the situation causing you stress, will influence your actions making you more efficient and effective without affecting you emotionally or physiologically. A great example would be where you have a deadline and the stress creates the incentive to get it done and meet it where you normally would have put it off.
According to PsychologyToday.com if stress happens too often or lasts too long, it can have negative effects. Stress has been linked to headaches, an upset stomach, back pain, and trouble sleeping. Stress can weaken your immune system, making it harder to fight off disease. If you already have a health problem, stress may make it worse. Charles W. Mayo, M.D says “worry and stress affects the circulation, the heart, the glands, the whole nervous system, and profoundly affects heart action”.
Stress can also make you moody, tense, or depressed. Most importantly to note is that your relationships may suffer which would carry over and affect your work, school or any other activity that you might be involved with. Who wants to be in a relationship where the other person is constantly moody or in a state of depression anyway?
So, how do we deal with stress? What do we do with it?
American psychologist William James said that “our greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” What that means is that we have to make conscious efforts to focus our thoughts in the positive direction. It could also be that when we feel stress it is not that we are specifically thinking about the stressor at that moment, but that unconsciously it is still affecting us.
Actress and best-selling author Marilu Henner stated that “…having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management…” Writing down everything that is on your mind and keeping a “stressor journal” is crucial to being able to put things into perspective and move forward with realistic expectations. Once you have all stressors on paper it is much easier to quantify their magnitude, prioritize them and then execute the plan without overwhelming pressure.
Hypnotherapist Maureen Killoran says “stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response to what happens. And response is something we can choose”. Every situation can be interpreted to mean what we decide it to mean; the key to not producing unnecessary stress is to be very clear on the difference between fact and fiction. Ask yourself; what are my interpretations, assumptions and beliefs around the issue? What else could it mean? Then move towards a solution by asking yourself, what is the best thing I can do now?
Just please don’t fall under the percentage of people that revert to unhealthy activities to cope with stress. Research has shown that a large percentage of Americans turn to drinking or smoking to cope through stressful periods in their lives and that can lead to addictions, loss of money, poor relationships and further health complications.
The bottom line is that stress occurs when we dwell for too long on a situation or circumstance (the stressor) that we feel consciously or unconsciously is beyond our control and when our focus and perspective has skewed from reality. We all have the ability to manage the stressors and most importantly manage our thoughts. To begin eliminating stress from your life today:
- Recognize what is causing the stress. Keep a journal. Start noticing patters, situations, people or events that trigger the stress. Take time to empty your mind on paper, it will allow you to see the big picture.
- Define what reality is and what fiction is in every stress producing situation. What is truly happening and what are we making it to mean?
- Create a plan of action with necessary support. Decide what is important and where your focus should be. Find the help you need. Realize that your best is all you can do and all you can do is enough.
- Continue to move forward becoming consistently more aware of your thoughts and focus.
- Find your stress relieving activities and do them often; like, keeping a calendar, exercising, eating healthy, getting plenty of rest or meditating. The important thing is finding something that works for you.
You have the ability to work on improving anything that is not where you want it to be in your life. If stress is something you are dealing with and you are seeing it affect any area of your life, it is time to do something about it. How much is eliminating stress from your life worth to you?