Preparing for a weekend retreat on “Reducing Distress while Maximizing Good Stress”, I outlined ways we can make stress work for us instead of against us. We create a lot of our distress by our responses to whatever is happening in our lives.
One of the exercises I use with my groups comes from a series produced by Nancy Loving Tubesing, EdD and Donald A. Tubesing, MDiv,PhD entitled “Rest in Peace”. As we take an inventory of thoughts, attitudes and behaviors that hurt instead of help us, we can put them to rest for good.
Most of us act on old beliefs, thoughts, ideas, biases, attitudes and perceptions that may have helped us in some way in the past – but have outlived their usefulness. Many of our defenses, such as anger, hostility, despair, denial, perfectionism, procrastination, resentment, and grievances, create and maintain stress levels.
We need to periodically take an inventory of how we respond to our world. Anger may have helped us make some important changes in our life. Anxiety may have helped us examine our choices and whether we are re-active or proactive. Sorrow and despair may be telling us to grieve, forgive and let go of past losses. Hostility may be holding us in a pattern of resentment that continues to eat us up. Putting a lot of “old stuff” to rest can free up our lives.
Over the next few weeks, my blogs will focus on the many ways that we can reduce stress levels. Take a moment and reflect on your attitudes, feelings, and patterns of behaviors. What old habits and beliefs that you act upon hurt you? Which creates distress?
Take a piece of paper and write down all the things that you believe are keeping you at high stress levels. Your list may include such things as relationships, time pressures, family and marital problems, lack of finances, job search, depression, discouragement, etc. Be honest. What beliefs keep you captive to fear and anxiety? What losses seem overwhelming? What adversities seem insurmountable?
We can’t live without stress. It is the body’s non-specific way of adapting and responding to any demands made on it. It is normal and natural. When it is working for us, we are able to set goals, make plans, go to work, enjoy our family and friends, and solve problems.
All emotions are important and tell us something. When we are on overload, we no longer hear the messages they tell us, but become flooded with feelings that create ongoing panic, fear, and anxiety.
Follow me in the coming weeks, as we uncover ways to make our lives less stressful.
Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC