Feeling Stressed?

I would imagine that more than a few of you are thinking “Duh! Who isn’t stressed these days?”

The word, stress, typically has a negative connotation. It’s often associated with feelings of being overwhelmed, tense and anxious. In reality, stress can either build us up or tear us down…depending on which we choose.

A choice?

I’m sure that some of you are thinking “I do NOT choose to feel stressed. It’s foist upon me.”

To a degree, you’re right; these feelings are thrust upon us; they are automatic reactions to the situation we’re facing. But, we have the right, and ability, to choose whether to nurture these feelings or set them aside. The choice we make determines whether we’re enhancing our capabilities or limiting them.

Illustrative experiences

Here are a couple of examples of how we can choose to use stress to our advantage:

  • There have been times when I’ve felt overwhelmed…more tasks to complete than hours in the day to complete them. In these moments I choose to stop what I am doing, make a list of what I need to accomplish and prioritize the list. This simple act of creating a plan for what needed to be done relieved me of the stress I was feeling, which enabled me to move through the list more quickly than if I hadn’t made the plan. Why? Because this type of stress drains our energy. When we stop the energy drain, we become more productive.
  • My exercise routine has become easy for me. If I continue the routine, I limit the potential benefits of my exercise. If, however, I increase the frequency or intensity of the exercise, I add stress that enables me to experience increased strength, flexibility, stamina or cardio health depending upon the goal of that particular exercise.

In both instances, I have a choice. If I choose wisely, I can alleviate stress that promotes fear, anxiety and frustration and enhance the benefits of stress that promotes growth and health.

What does this mean for you?

For you

You are more likely to feel stress that negatively impacts you because it’s painful. When you experience this type of stress, stop what you’re doing. This will allow the emotion to wane. Then plan a course of action for dealing with the situation that’s causing the stress. The act of planning, and the comfort a plan affords, will alleviate the stress you’re feeling.

Increasing stress to accelerate growth and health is more difficult to recognize because there is no pain associated with it. Indeed, the opposite is true. We feel good about the fact that we can now accomplish what we want more quickly and effectively…often with less effort. It’s at times like these, when these feelings that life has gotten easier, surface. That’s when we need to challenge ourselves to move up to the next level or onto something new.

A simple way to help you develop the habit of recognizing and dealing with both types of stress is to, shortly after rising, remind yourself that when you feel overwhelmed, tense and anxious, you’re going to pause, allow the emotion to subside, then develop a course of action. Also, remind yourself that you’re going to pay attention to things that have gotten so easy that you’re no longer gaining much benefit from the effort. This will spur you to move to the next level or onto something new.

For our kids

When kids appear negatively-stressed, share with them the fact that they don’t have to live with that stress. Teach them how to set aside the emotion and replace it with a plan…for it’s in the creation of a plan that they’ll alleviate this type of stress.

Also, let them know that there are types of stress that benefit us…stress that results from increasing our exercise routine, expanding our knowledge or improving our skills. Help them understand that when things become so easy that they no longer give much thought to what they’re doing, they need to challenge themselves in new and exciting ways.

With these simple techniques, you can help them minimize the impact of debilitating stress and enhance the benefits of stress designed to promote growth and health.

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