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Helpfully Responding to Stress

woman reading on a couchMost of us have been stressed out more than a time or twenty throughout our lives. We have come to identify various stressors and what our most common responses to stress are. There are too many categories into which most of our coping techniques fall. We either try to remove ourselves from whatever is causing the stress (flee) or engage the cause (fight). It is really important to have some good, handy coping techniques in place. Stuff happens when we least expect it, and the stuff can actually cause damage if we cannot find a healthy way to deal with it.

I asked myself the other day what my first course of action usually is. It seems to vary depending on what the stressor may be. Sometimes I get loud. Sometimes I go totally silent. Sometimes I EAT! None of these are particularly helpful, but they are usually handy and immediately available! What else is immediately available that might actually be more helpful? BREATHING! Yep, inhaling and exhaling deeply and slowly about ten times may be enough to channel my responses to more helpful avenues. I can focus on taking ten deep breaths, which gives me a bit of time to think.

I have many choices. I can try to lessen the emotional intensity of the moment. If I am angry, I can step the feeling down to “really annoyed.” If I am anxious and worrying, I can take a step back to evaluate the concern and determine what I can do. If I am overwhelmed with guilt, shame or depression, I channel those feeling into the learning opportunities of regret, embarrassment or disappointment and look for ways to forgive myself, do differently and do better.

When everything seems to be crashing down, I can reflect on the countless gifts in my life— friends, family, support, experiences, memories, health, abilities and shelter from life’s storms. If the stress piles higher and higher, I can actually declutter my home, work environment and even my mind to provide a calming space. I can assert my rights calmly and firmly. I can speak my mind gently. I can own my good points, accept compliments, ask questions and say “no.” I can quit wasting time with worry and excuses and quit procrastinating. I can de-stress by eating well, getting enough rest and not self-medicating. I can help others, work things off physically, take a break, cry and laugh.

All of us can make choices and take action in each moment. How are you going about managing the stress in your life when it arrives, often unexpectedly and uninvited?

I Care, Barb

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