Stress is not pressure from the outside: Challenges at work or at home, money problems… Those are the stressors.
Your response to those situations, those stressors, is what we call stress.
This distinction is important. Stressors are the multitude of daily occurrences that require you to adapt. Stress is your response as you attempt to make the adjustment.
Stress can be positive or negative. Meeting a deadline, preparing to drive on ice, making it through a crisis on raw courage, cramming for an exam, making a terrific impression at a job interview or an audition, walking into a room full of strangers at a party, are all defined as positive stress.
Stress can also be destructive. It can turn into distress. It can gnaw away at you and sap your energy over the months and years.
Violin strings need just enough tension to make beautiful music, but not so much tension that the strings snap. That is the way it is for people and stress. Each of us has a level of stress that is positive and not harmful.
Your body will tell you about your stress. It will send you messages when you are experiencing too much stress:
- Tight throat
- Sweaty palms
- Vague uneasiness
Be aware. Listen to yourself.
Once your personal distress sounds the bell of awareness and lets you know that the stressors in your life need attention, the management decisions are up to you!
Stress management doesn’t mean getting rid of all stress. It means making thoughtful choices about your life.
Most stress is not caused by the great tragedies of life. Most stress comes from the accumulation of minor irritants that steadily grind us down over the years.
To improve managing your stress level, three strategies are important:
- Change your perceptions or interpretation of troublesome situations
- Strengthen your resilience to enable you to better withstand life’s inevitable upsets
- Change how you relate to or interact with people and events that are stressful
You can make your life more tranquil if it is frenetic, more exciting if it is boring, or buoyant and playful if it seems too serious. You can re-frame your perceptions by focusing your awareness on your automatic or habitual reactions/responses.
You may choose to live with a high level of stress for a period of time.
Your body will support you, even in crisis, if you develop your stamina, maintain your flexibility, and nourish your cells. The key is to build your resilience by maintaining the integrity of body, mind and spirit. Your health and well-being depend on these factors working together, in balance and harmony, in a lifestyle that honors all your needs.
If you are experiencing a lot of stress from too many concurrent changes in your work or personal life, be especially kind to yourself, slow your pace, and avoid strenuous effort. Where possible, defer new commitments or try to space them out over time.
If you are experiencing a lot of stress from putting up with difficult people or challenging life events, consider using one or a combination of these three overlapping strategies:
- You can leave the situation
- You can change the situation
- You can change your own reaction/response and behavior
Take some time to explore and evaluate the stressors in your life and make changes sooner than later.
Remember, only YOU can make it happen!
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Dr. Jackie’s Relationship-focused Podcast