A young lady confidently walked around the room while leading and explaining stress management to an audience with a raised glass of water. Everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, ‘half empty or half full?’…She fooled them all …. “How heavy is this glass of water?” she inquired with a smile. Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. To 20 oz.
She replied , “The absolute weight doesn’t matter.It depends on how long I hold it.If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm.
If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance.
In each case it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “and that’s the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won’t be able to carry on.”
“As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the burden – holding stress longer and better each time practiced.So , as early in the evening as you can, put your burdens down.
So how do you learn to put your burdens down? The word “Stress” is actually a scientific term used to describe the amount of applied force. So like the analogy to holding a glass of water it means as pressure is building then something is going to give physically, emotionally or spiritually.
I mention spirituality because the first answer as to how you cope with stress is: Faith. Faith is the antidote to Anxiety. When you trust your Higher Power or God and His plan for you, then it is out of your hands. This is my personal answer but it is not always the answer for all of my clients.
Understanding stress means understanding your perception of stress. We feel overwhelmed when we feel our ability to cope is being compromised by external forces out of our control. It is our thoughts which create the idea that we are unable to cope comfortably with what is happening.
This brings us to the second coping tool: Change your thoughts. If you can’t change the stressor, change yourself and your attitude.
- Reframe problems. Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Rather than fuming about a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, listen to your favorite radio station, or enjoy some alone time or back to solution number one :hand it over to your Higher Power.
- Look at the bigger picture. Ask yourself how important is it really?. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.
- Adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others, and learn to be okay with “good enough.”
- Focus on the positive. When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, or simply count your blessings. I like to start with the first letter of the alphabet and see how far I can go identifying alphabetically the good things in my life right down to the letter ‘Z’
The third step in coping with Stress is called Avoidance but it won’t work in all situations. Not all stress can be avoided, and it’s not healthy to avoid a situation that needs to be addressed. I like to remember the serenity prayer ”God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Learn how to set boundaries – Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, refuse to accept added responsibilities when you’re close to reaching them. Learn to say “no”Avoid people who stress you out – If someone consistently causes stress, then recognize it ,and,either stay away from them or go back to the previous step and learn to say ‘no’ or to be assertive enough to let them know the stress they are causing you. It is important to communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If you don’t voice your feelings, resentment will build and the situation will likely remain the same or get worse.
Finally, the fourth step in coping with stress is learn to manage your time better and always include time for fun and relaxation. Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. Remember to plan ahead and make sure you don’t over extend yourself. It is vitally important to have “me” time everyday even if it is only for 30 minutes. Remember that your batteries will run out if you don’t recharge them . So if you regularly make time for fun and relaxation, you’ll be in a better place to handle life’s stressors when they inevitably come. If you are really feeling overwhelmed with anxiety try to practice some relaxation techniques such as meditation, or safe place exercises.
There is a concept called mindfulness, where you just focus on the here and now and notice your breathing. Stay in the now and don’t worry about what may or may not happen in the future .For more info check out the teachings of Jon Kabat-Zinn.