Every day we get up, go to work, make meals, clean our houses, and try to unwind at the end of the day. We are adjusting to whatever demands are put on us. When properly channeled, stress provides the energy and adaptability to live happy, energetic, and productive lives.
Each person responds to life differently. What one person sees as overwhelming energizes another. Personality traits and our genetic predisposition play a role in how we perceive and respond to circumstances. But that does not mean we are locked into only one way of responding to life’s challenges.
When we recognize and understand what creates a negative stress response for us, we can alter our approach and put that stress to work for us instead of against us.
Properly channeled, stress enables us to live happy, energetic, productive lives. It enables us to meet dangers and defend ourselves.
We live in stressful times, constantly bombarded with change and the need to go faster and faster while still maintaining a high level of productivity. As more and more demands are put on us, worry and anxiety become the norm.
But along with unexpected tragedies, adversities, losses, and unwanted changes, we can enjoy times of incredible joy and happiness. We can make stress work for us. Click to learn how to make stress work for you.
If you find yourself struggling to get out of bed in the morning, anxious about the day awaiting you, you are not alone. We are living in a time of great uncertainty, which causes stress levels to escalate.
Anxiety and fear take center stage, and we struggle to find ways to make life normal again. Often the symptoms are so devastating, it becomes harder and harder to identify the underlying problems.
When our ability to think is compromised, our ability to find resolutions is compromised.
When we try to cope without identifying the underlying core issues, we end up going round and round in circles. Stress levels not only continue to escalate but remain high day after day.
“How dare she!”
“That was mean!”
“That’s it – it’s over.”
“How could he do that to me?”
Someone has wronged us or betrayed us. Anger rises. It simmers in our thoughts as we contemplate our revenge: “Just wait; I’ll get even with you.”
And we repeat to ourselves over and over the injustice of the situation, of how we were treated and why we didn’t deserve it.
What felt like a kick in the stomach the first time is repeatedly replayed as we continue to stoke the flames of anger, hurt, and betrayal until we have a raging furnace inside of us – our stomach churning into hard knots, chilling our bones.
Acceptance is a necessary step in helping us recover from losses.
When we accept our circumstances, their formidable impact on our life is reduced while helping us find ways to reconcile and heal.
In many ways, we are addressing stressful events every day. We acknowledge, accept, look for options and work to find solutions instead of allowing them to create ongoing turmoil. Because acceptance is such an important concept, I want to expand on how it can help us lower stress levels in our daily lives.
We are currently living in uncommon stressful times: the pandemic, inability to go back to work; wondering whether our kids can go back to school, whether we will have enough money to pay our bills or if life will ever return to normal. Add to that the emotional stress that is generated as we try to communicate and work together to solve the escalating problems we face.
The purpose was to discover patterns of thinking and behavior that add unnecessary stress to your life.
Were you surprised by how your thoughts could increase or decrease the stress you had?
As we learned from Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis, we make assumptions about the world and ourselves that become unquestionable core beliefs and unbreakable rules by which everything and everyone is evaluated.
Irrational thinking influences how we think and act, how we treat others, our relationships, our attitudes, expectations, and assumptions.
It seems that life keeps handing us one stressful thing after another. We barely resolve one problem when ten others pop up, demanding immediate attention. Stress now becomes a constant battle, a way of life that keeps our thoughts and emotions in turmoil.
According to Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis, renowned scientists and psychologists, it isn’t situations by themselves that determine how we feel, but rather the interpretations and perceptions we make.
While it is important to pay attention to our emotional responses, we also need to pay attention to what we are saying to ourselves about these incidences. We can blow events out of proportion by how we think. These become thought distortions or irrational thinking that increases our stress levels.
We will experience stress every day. That is normal and natural. For example:
You’ve been asked to work overtime – again. The bus was late, you arrive home to kids fighting and an irritated spouse, the kitchen is a mess and you just want to throw up your hands and scream.
That is a pretty normal reaction to a string of events that were frustrating and exasperating. Who wouldn’t want to throw up their hands and scream?
However, when we remain in that agitated state, the original stress is compounded. We need our jobs, we want to have good times with our families, and we know we can adapt, but how do we keep the accumulation of expectations and demands from overwhelming us?
During this pandemic, I have had conversations with many people. Everyone is feeling stressed due to prolonged isolation and restrictions.
But for some, that stress is far worse than for others. What makes the difference?
In my book, Make Stress Work for You: 12 Steps to Understanding Stress and Turning it into a Positive Force, I talk about the difference between good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress). As you read and listen to the audio of each of the steps, you will learn how you can take charge of the stress in your life.
While stress is universal and everyone experiences it, it is also very personal. What stresses one person may be an exhilarating experience to another. Consider sky diving or swimming. In the Study Guide and Personal Application that accompanies this book, the questions presented can help you understand the sources of your personal stress.
We can’t live without stress nor do we want to. It is an essential part of living. But we can make it work for us and not against us.