Long work hours, traffic, a new spouse or baby, mergers, not enough money to pay the bills, waiting in line, buying a new home — there is just too much to do and too little time! We often feel like we must to do it all — be the perfect wife, parent, taxi-driver, manager, employee, cook, groundskeeper. But how often do you take time for yourself?
In a recent survey, about 90 percent of American adults reported feeling high levels if stress at least once a week. Stress is now a factor in at least two-thirds of visits to primary care physicians.
Have you ever said: “I just want to eliminate all the stress from my life?” Well, I have good and bad news for you. The good news: It is possible to remove all stress from your life. The bad news: You have to die to do it!
Stress is unavoidable. It’s a natural reaction to both good and bad changes in our lives. Being either promoted or fired can create stress in our lives. Both getting married and divorced are stressful. Just like losing a job is stressful, so is starting a new one.
When channeled constructively the surge of energy, concentration and power triggered by stress can spur you to greater productivity and creativity. But if stress is unrelenting, health problems ranging from headaches and indigestion to heart attacks, strokes and cancer can
So what is this thing called stress? It is our bodies’ reaction (physical, mental, emotional and chemical) to circumstances that frighten, excite, confuse, endanger or irritate us. The way you respond to an event or situation determines the level of stress you experience. Most commonly we react without even thinking or realizing we are stressing, possibly even killing ourselves.
What are symptoms of stress for you and why are they important? Stress is our body’s warning system that something is not right. Once you identify your warning signals,whether it is tension in your shoulders and neck, indigestion, clenching your jaw or quick, shallow breathing, you can take steps to release the tension being held in your body.
Some symptoms you may not be aware of include increased blood fats, colitis, depressed immune systems, hypertension. The list goes on and on!
The important news I want to share with you that stress is not the problem — it is only the symptom. What happens to you is not as important as how you deal with it. We need to step back, evaluate the situation and explore our options. Instead of getting frustrated by orange barrels and traffic delays, we can choose to listen to a CD, choose a different route or maybe even take the bus and read the book that we’ve been wanting to read. What is important in surviving stress is to focus on the choices you have and to empower yourself to manage the situation.
Stress is often a matter of attitude. We often cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we choose to respond to the event or situation. You are the one who has power over your body and mind.
What is your attitude toward control? Take a moment for honest self-analysis, and consider this question seriously. Your answer will be a big clue to how you cope with stress in your life. Where do you fit on the continuum of control?? Are you an external person who believes you are at the mercy of your environment and have no control over the things that happen to you? Are you like a tumbleweed that simply moves whichever way the wind is blowing? Or are you an internal person? Do you believe you can make a difference in your world and that you can control most of the things that happen to you?
Everyone falls somewhere along this external-internal continuum. The key is the closer you are to the internal end, the less stress you have in your life. The closer you are to the external side, the harder it is for you to control stress in your life because you feel as if it is impossible for you to control anything.
Here are four ways you can take charge of the stress in your life:
1. Develop a Strong Sense of purpose
You need to know not only what you want to accomplish in life, you need to know why. What is your big picture? What type of person do you want to be? Write your own personal mission statement. Work to achieve balance in all aspects of your life including family, career, social, spiritual, personal, wellness, leisure and financial. Think through each of your roles: spouse, parent, significant other, boss, employee, student or friend. Set goals for each and a plan to meet them. Plan in week long blocks, making sure you allow time for each priority in your life sometime during that week.
2. Adopt a Sense of Control
Examine your feelings. Are you always blaming someone or something else? What is your self-talk like? Do you say things like, “I can’t handle this,” or “I cannot possibly do this report properly with such a short deadline,” or “That’s impossible!” to yourself? Change the “I cannots” to “I can!” Do what you can right now. Rewrite the script! Start replacing the helpless messages you are sending yourself with language of power and control.
3. Be Open to Change
Learn to focus on the benefits of change rather than only looking at the downside. This helps you tolerate stress and to turn anxiety provoking situations to your advantage. Consider options and plan ahead. Use time spent waiting in line or for an appointment to catch up on your reading or to write a note to a friend. Develop a new attitude toward change – look at it as an opportunity. Ask yourself: “How can I benefit or learn from this?” Rather than being angry that your boss has given you one more thing to do, consider it as an opportunity to learn something new or to make a name for yourself as a dependable person.
4. Create a Stress Management Plan for You
Learn to keep stress in perspective. Stress can keep us up at night, but it also energizes us to achieve and stretch beyond our present boundaries. You cannot escape totally from stress, nor should you want to. Remember, without stress, there would be no life! There are some stresses in life you can do something about and some you cannot. The wisdom in life is being able to distinguish between the two. Create and put your stress management plan into action so that you are a survivor, not a victim!
Send your questions about how to “work together…better” to Nancy at Nancy@SuccessCatalyst.com.