Practical stress management advice for dealing with negative stressors.
Stress–people often talk about how “stressed” they are. It even seems as if it is a badge of honour to be “stressed”. Even teenagers are using the term–‘School is so stressful’. So how do we learn the skill of handling or managing this mountain of stress that occurs so frequently in our lives? I guess the first question about handling stress is how to identify it: What is causing the stress?
For some people it can be unmet expectations. For others it may be the fear of failure, the fear of rejection or the fear of what other people will think, etc. When I came to understand stress is coming from my thoughts, I realized I needed to learn how to change my thoughts . Then I could be calm and release the tension in my body caused by the “stress”. First, we must understand that not all ‘stress’ is bad. Perhaps we are just labeling any feeling of anticipation, or even excitement, as ‘stress’.
In small doses, when we are under pressure, stress can help us perform at a higher level. When we want to do well on a project, we set standards of performance. If we have prepared well, rehearsed our subject, then we can allow the butterflies in the tummy to align themselves, knowing that we will do a good job. Those ‘butterflies’ that some people call ‘stress’ actually are good for us because they get the adrenalin going and help us step up to the plate and perform at a higher level. I always feel those ‘butterflies” when I stand up to do a presentation because I want to communicate my topic so the audience can “get it”. However, if stress becomes overwhelming because I haven’t prepared sufficiently or I am taken out of my comfort zone, it can disengage my ability to effectively communicate. It can disrupt my capacity to present appropriately, to think creatively and clearly.
In situations when you are ‘stressed’ and, therefore, usually out of control, you can misread or misinterpret other people’s words and actions. Then you send confusing nonverbal signals, such as body language, and even react in a manner that you are sorry for later.
Negative stress can put a lot of pressure on our health. Therefore, the ability to modify, reduce and then eliminate strong negative emotions such as anxiety and anger is a powerful way to stay healthy. In the beginning, when you are learning these new skills, it can be difficult to do if you always just have ‘blown up’ when you are angry or ‘gone to pieces’ if you are anxious. Once you become aware of the potential impact of these negative emotions on you physically and mentally, you can decide to alter and then choose your response, which will increase your stress reduction abilities.
Anger doesn’t give you a warning that tells you to get ready–an anger moment is about to explode. It just happens when something doesn’t work properly or someone does something or says something that is inappropriate from your perspective. It isn’t always possible to go for a run or do a little yoga or break out in song or get a drink of water when you are feeling that ‘stress’ build up. However, in the build up to ‘stress explosion moment’, it is possible to reduce and even eliminate the ‘anger stress’ by changing your paradigm about what is happening. Anthony Robbins calls this “reframing”. For me, it helps to mentally put my feet in the other person’s moccasins and attempt to see why this person is uptight. Then I more easily can handle any strong reaction or emotions I’m experiencing, regulate my feelings and then respond more appropriately.
Once you know how to develop and maintain your aura of calm awareness in a relaxed, but energized state, you can remain emotionally stable and engaged even in the midst of the “thunder and lightning” of another person’s breakout. Anger is a thought and so is anxiety. So learn to take charge of the mind and those negative emotions will rarely be utilized by you.