03 May 2010, by A. Cedilla
While it would be nice to just have a sure-fire, once-and-for-all way of dealing with stress –one that doesn’t involve being planted six feet under ground — it’s a fact of life that what doesn’t kill us…well, sometimes makes us wish it did.
If you’ve experienced times like this, you understand just how crazy things can tangle up inside your head when you’re under pressure.
Dealing with and managing your stress is an ongoing process , not something you can solve with a one-time application, so it’s past time to let go of wishing for impossible cures.
When you get stressed on a regular basis, you need to be able to deal with it the same way: regularly and effectively.
An essential part of that coping strategy is to listen to yourself. Observe the signs of your stress, they mean something. Otherwise they wouldn’t be popping up.
For example: While we sleep, dreams are our mind’s way of coping with the events of our waking life. Whether you remember them clearly or not, your dreams are your mind’s method of filtering and decompressing from daily life — and help vent the pressures of the workday.
If your workload gets so bad that you dream of work, then your mind has no way to escape that pressure. Result: your mind (and the rest of you) gets no real place to rest.
Here are a few tips on how you can build a positive, pro-active strategy to deal with stress.
- Don’t push until the crisis point. While some people thrive under pressure — most notably those intense personalities called Type A’s– the rest of us less feisty mortals function better over time when we listen to what our bodies are telling us and take of issues before they come to a head.
- Don’t downplay the signs of your stress. Awareness is a great help in this situation. Chronic back-pain, lowered immune response (you get sick easily, and stay sick longer, sleeping problems (including not enough sleep) and even stomach upsets can be signs of that stress manifesting in your body. Get checked, get help, act. Don’t let things fester in denial, that just makes it worse. Take care of yourself.
- If you’re ready to blow-up, detach. Learn to read the signs of your anger and take a step back before you pull a Vesuvius. Look at what’s really going on. Detach, leave the situation, get enough room away to breath.
- Take a break. In order to get some perspective on what’s bothering you, you need to take some time and/or space away from the situation to view it differently. Seeing how things could have been worse can help lessen the impact. Seeing what you have the power to change can energize you. It’s a matter of seeing the situation from different angles.
- Cultivate other interests. When you focus for a long time on one big issue (your career, for example), when that focus burns out, you’ve nothing to hold onto. Build other points of focus into your life to serve as support, meaning and a means to express the parts of you you don’t use in your career. Making your life all about one thing is bad when you lose that one thing, or when that one thing leaves you. You’re bigger than that. Be open to what life offers you.
- Build it up. Yes, you read that right. Build up your stress tolerance by incrementally exposing yourself to chosen stress, like exercise — which is incredibly beneficial in ways beyond the mere physical.
- Break it down again. If the stressors in your life are unavoidably linked to the activities you chose to do and the goals you chose to go after, go back to the beginning and remember why you chose these things. The perspective afforded by seeing the bigger picture can make the hardships smaller and less hurtful.
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