What about stress?
Every person in the world is going to face obstacles and situations in life that are difficult or stressful. This is part of the human condition. Not everyone faces the same obstacles or addresses them in the same way. Your neighbor may react to having a flat tire by screaming and throwing a fit, while you realize that the situation is what it is and move on to fixing the tire.
How we deal with our stressors, or cope, can have a huge impact on our well-being for better or worse. Some people cope by isolating, worrying about the future or the past, eating too little or too much engaging in drug or alcohol use, self-harm, or unsafe sexual activities. These types of reactions to stress can lead to more stress. The outcomes of such habits can lead to embarrassment, shame, heightened anxiety, long-term medical complications, relationship stress, depression, and even death.
What we do a lot of, we tend to do well at. This also applies to how we react to a situation. If you are a person who reacts to stress by taking your painful feelings out on others, you’ve probably had some practice reacting this way. We are creatures of habit and to break a negative habit, we need to find a healthy one and then practice it.
We all cope in one way or another, it is how we get through life. So when the unwanted stuff hits the fan, what do we do and how should we respond?
Realize that no one is perfect. Having unrealistic expectations of yourself and others only leads to disappointment and the potential for other negative thoughts and feelings. It’s okay that you are not perfect, we make mistakes and should use our mistakes as an opportunity to learn or grow.
Challenge the negative voice in your head. It is important to realize that just because you have a negative thought or feeling, does not make it a reality. You can challenge negative thinking by asking yourself “How might someone else view this problem?”, “This is difficult, but I can get through it.”, “This is not forever, but rather a moment that will pass.” Giving in to negative thinking only makes the situation worse.
Remember it is normal to have stress. Everyone will have stress, it is inevitable. Focus on what you have control over, what you can do and realize there are things you cannot change. Take appropriate steps to make changes in your life where you can to improve your situation. It is too often the case that a lot of energy is wasted on what we can’t control.
Practice relaxing. How can you relax when you’re so anxious? You may want to practice when you’re not stressed so you get the flow of how it is done. Take a warm bath with dim lighting or read a good book.
Try breathing exercises, breathing in slowly through your nose filling up your lungs, hold for three seconds and then exhaling slowly through your mouth. Focus on the air moving in and out of your body, this can be a great way to help you relax.
Healthy body, healthy mind. Remember to stay healthy. Your body needs the right amount of sleep, exercise, and a healthy diet. If you’re doing these things, your body is going to be better equipped to handle stress and can help prevent you from getting sick or worn down.
Engage in healthy coping skills. Find a healthy coping skill. Seek out a new healthy hobby to occupy your time or feed your brain. It could be almost anything: writing, photography, taking a walk, learning a new instrument, providing service to the community, reading a book, puzzles, and the list goes on.
If stress interrupts your daily living and you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others, please seek help from your doctor or a local health provider. Stress is treatable, and help is available.
Daniel Park with Health West Inc. is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), native to Idaho, and has worked in mental health for over 10 years. He got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Boise State University.