What You Need To Know To Stress Less – A Second Thought

Let’s revisit the definition of stress again from a new angle. Stress is a perceived threat (real or imagined) to our mind, body, spirit or emotions. Stop what you’re doing right now. Think about how much time you spend stressed out every day. Would you like that time and energy back? What would you do with an extra hour, 2 hours per day? 14 hours per week? 60 hours per month?

Real stress happens. We face things like the deaths of loved ones, life-threatening diseases, crimes at gunpoint and traumatic injuries. These events are taxing on our mind, body, and spirit. Our body was built for these types of stressors – intense, short, and, thankfully, infrequent.

The imagined stress rules so much of our everyday lives. Things like an unpleasant relationship with an ex-spouse, a high workload, financial burdens, or worries about future events – like how our presentation will go three days from now or will our children get into college. This chronic stress results from trying to maintain in the moment, worrying about what might happen in the future, and stewing over something that happened in the past. These situations consume too much of our physical and mental energy.

Recently, I worked with a client – let’s call her Amy. This highly stressed, 40-something teacher and mother of a young son knew stress was the reason behind her overeating, which led to unwanted weight gain. The kicker? Amy’s stress was 99% imagined. Her stress was not a threat to her survival. Amy manufactured her own stress out of her world of shoulds and should haves.th-2

Amy felt she should work more hours, should spend more quality time with her son, should make her spouse’s life easier — even at the expense of her own happiness. She felt like she should want a promotion. She should eat well and exercise. She was a guilt-ridden, stressed out woman with excessively high expectations and standards for herself.

In the evening, she felt stressed cooking meals, monitoring homework, and logging more corporate hours. Amy was exhausted and annoyed. So when she felt the most overwhelmed and resentful, she turned to sugar – it was sugar-time!! Chocolate never looked so yummy, neither did cheese or bread. She knew she should make better choices, but yikes! That’s one more should! What could Amy do?

Amy and I took some time to dream. When I gave Amy her own can of pixie dust, she didn’t hesitate to brainstorm ideas to make her life easier, peaceful, and fun! Amy knew exactly what she wanted out of life, and she knew what she could do to achieve it. She just needed to take action.

Amy slayed those shoulds and replaced them with her own desires. She weighed the risks of doing nothing vs. the upside of trying something. Amy started to feel a level of progress that energized her to reclaim her life.

You can experience the same freedom that Amy has. Open your own can of pixie dust and let your imagination reveal the life you want to live.

What steps can you take to eliminate [imagined] stress from your life?th-4

  • Avoid the stressor -What stress can you choose to eliminate from your life? Avoid the Stressor Strategies: Say ‘no’; limit time with people who create stress in your life; don’t talk politics at work; and take time to plan for the week ahead on Sunday night.
  • Alter the stressor – What stress can you prevent from occurring in the future? Alter the Stressor Strategies: Don’t bottle up your feelings; find a middle ground; simplify; clearly communicate.
  • Adapt to the stressor – What stress do you need to learn to “deal with”? Adapt to the Stressor Strategies: Reset your expectations; say farewell to perfectionism; commit to self-care.
  • Accept the stressor – What stress is beyond your control? Accept the Stressor Strategies: Realize which events, people, etc. you can control and which are beyond your control; Meditate or pray; practice forgiveness.

Which simple step will you take on your wellness walk? You can learn more about The Four A’s from an article on Helpguide.org.


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