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Posts Categorized: Make Stress Work For You

Hope

As I was sharing with a friend a page from my book, “A Love so Great, A Grief so Deep,” I thought about all the times in life when we get overwhelmed and lose hope.

Here is what I wrote about hope when my husband was dying.

Hope is the effort to fly with wings not yet grown. If I don’t hope – don’t try – don’t struggle, there will never be the possibility of flying.

I was still hoping that he would live – even as I knew he would not.

We cannot live without hope. We may feel as though we are getting bruised and bloodied in the process, but that is a part of living. To live without hope is worse than struggling – you are only flapping your wings without going anywhere.

But with hope, our wings get stronger, and soon they are not just flapping but carrying us – taking us beyond sorrow to healing, recovery and beyond.

What Do You Focus On?

What do you focus on when you wake up?

Do your thoughts go something like this:

“I have to hurry, I will be late, there is so much to do, where will I begin, I wish I could have slept longer, I wish I hadn’t stayed up so late, did I make the kid’s lunch………

From the moment we wake up to the time we finally lay our thoughts down for the night, we are focusing on some part of life. Our thoughts often revolve around all the “have to’s” – the things we have to accomplish in order to survive.

After awhile our thoughts become so adrenalin filled we become highly charged and stressed before we leave home for work.

Before we know it, stress is ruling our lives – we aren’t. We are creating a pattern – a habit – a way of thinking that creates tension that works against us.

Stress. Everyone lives with it. But can you make it work for you?

Stress is Costly

When we allow ourselves to remain in constantly activated high stress, we are impacting our health on many levels. That stress maintained over time has an impact on your pocket book.

Many health costs experienced today can find their roots in long standing stress levels. But we can lower those levels when we become aware of those things that trigger unhealthy stress.

Several years ago, I put together a Wellness workshop and compiled facts and figures about stress at that time. Although these statistics are several years old, they still give us a picture of some of the costs associated with stress. Here are some of those statistics:

Those Ah-Ha Moments

Life will give us those Ah-Ha moments where we are able to get a glimpse of a larger truth that can forever alter our thinking. But we need to be ready to recognize them.

I was given such an Ah-Ha moment many years ago that changed my thinking forever.

We were preparing for a summer camping trip with the kids. I was doing loads of laundry in preparation for leaving the next day. But the job was hindered by a water pressure problem. For some reason the water filling my laundry tub was so slow it seemed to take forever.

It was one of the things on my husband’s to do list.

Time Out

In the game of sports, coaches call time outs to discuss new strategies.

In the game of life, we need time outs to step out of intense work cycles, give our mind a chance to calm down, and allow our bodies to release tension.

I work out of a home office and I periodically leave my computer and spend five to ten minutes doing some mindless chore to give my brain a break. Or to simply sit quietly and close my eyes and use the relaxation techniques I describe in my book on stress and my Relaxation CD. Mindless chores allow my body movement while my brain disconnects from planning, worrying or thinking.

Everybody needs time outs – your children as well as yourselves

This is not a boring 3-5 minutes sitting in a chair because of noncompliance. Time outs are a way to restore balance. It is unplugging – unhooking from all the electronic devices we use to divert ourselves and purposefully setting aside quiet time to allow our brains and bodies to relax.

Love Them or Hate Them

Do you remember when you were a teen and couldn’t wait to leave home? You couldn’t wait to live life the way you wanted to and didn’t want anybody telling you what you could or could not do.

Kids often can’t wait to leave home, establish their own rules and leave behind sibling rivalry, jealousies and what they might view as ongoing conflicts with their parents.

But like it or not, we take our families of origin with us. We can’t run away from them.

And whether we like it or not, we often end up repeating the behaviors we saw modeled – good or bad – even if we desperately want to do things different.

For those fortunate to grow up in nurturing and caring homes, we will have the support of our families as we leave home. We still want to be on our own, but will be able to appreciate the sacrifices and values and discipline we had as kids especially when we start our own families.

But for those who grew up in less than nurturing environments, were subjected to emotional or physical abuse, leaving home represents freedom from neglect and less than favorable family dynamics. They want to remove themselves as far as possible from their family of origin.

Where do we start

What is the earliest memory you have as a child and the relationships you had? Was it pleasant or sad?

We are shaped and molded by people and events as we grow up.

The experiences we had as a child affect our relationships as an adult.

Max Lucado in one segment of “Traveling Light for Mothers” writes about a “wedding reenactment” they did at his church. In this staged drama the thoughts of the bride and groom were revealed to those watching as they stood before the pastor and the altar.

Each had armloads full of “excess baggage” of “guilt, anger, arrogance, and insecurities” they were bringing with them to this new relationship.

Each believed they were marrying the person who would help them carry or relieve them of their load, and would take care of them.

As they stood before the congregation, their “baggage”, typically unseen, was piled high around them.

Relationships – Who Needs Them?

Perhaps you have experienced misplaced loyalty, broken commitments and trampled expectations from those you considered friends, colleagues and spouses.

If you have been hurt in relationships, you may ask: Relationships – who needs them? Wouldn’t it just be easier to stay out of any serious relationship all together?

And yet, we are social animals and require social interaction to survive. Consider this post from Jeney Cadell, PsyD who writes in her blog, How Healthy Relationships Change our Brains,

“We are much more interconnected than we realize. As technology advances and we are able to actually see into the human brain, we now have proof of this.”

Research is literally showing evidence that we are hardwired to connect with each other and “that healthy relationships actually soothe our brains.” Technology is allowing us to see what is happening within our brains.

We were not meant to face “the trauma and difficulties of life” by ourselves. Creating secure bonds is important for our health.

He said – She said

“That’s not what I said.”

“Yes it is, I heard you.”

“You always try to pin the blame on me. If you stayed home once in awhile instead of going golfing, this wouldn’t have happened.”

“Oh, and how about you – you are always out with your girlfriends shopping again…. ”

And round and round and round it goes. And we end up with two angry people who continue to find ways to attack, defend and destroy each other.

Have you ever found yourself in such a situation? The anger we feel is intensified as we go along. We dig in our heels believing we are right and refuse to budge.

How did we get into this conflict in the first place? And how do we get out of it? Everybody wants their needs met. Everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to be liked and appreciated and respected and….. and the list goes on.

Five Easy Steps

Why have I spent so much time on the topic of anger?

Because it is so prevalent and we see its destructive powers everywhere. Like summer wildfires, the results of anger unleashed and unchecked by reason leave behind a path of destruction. Our lives, too, can become tinder boxes ready to explode with just a spark of irritation.

As therapists we see the results of growing up in homes where anger is out of control. The wounds and scars run deep.

Unless recognized, addressed and changed, the patterns of behavior repeat themselves from one generation to another.

Shame, guilt, fear and sometimes downright terror often keep us from getting the help we need. Yet getting that help is the most freeing thing you can do.

Listen to what your anger is telling you. Maybe it’s time to review your priorities and goals. What is most important in your life – your career or your family? Do you spend time with your kids? If you grew up with constant turmoil, conflict and anger, you may be repeating those patterns with your children.