We can’t think of options and alternatives when we’re under high levels of stress – in fact, we can’t think at all.
Only when some of that stress has been reduced can we put on our thinking cap, challenge our fears, and look for ways to go beyond survival.
Ruminating over your problems may be the only way you know how to cope with stress at first. You may continue to argue your point of view… “You just don’t understand. I followed instructions. I took classes to learn. All I hear from everyone, is why don’t you do this or that, as if I haven’t already tried that and more.”
A student in my husband’s college class came to see him one day to tell him she would have to drop out of college. She was a great student, and he was afraid she would not return to school, limiting her chances in life.
He was always a trusted resource and support to his students, and he gently probed the reasons. He listened as she told her story, as shared in today’s post.
I also include information about how the fight/flight response affects us physically, and questions to ask yourself to help you identify what may be causing distress in your life.
When the unexpected happens, we come face to face with the unknown.
We may have lost our job, or the marriage we thought would last a lifetime has just ended. Our spouse may have died unexpectedly, or we lost our best friend. It may be the death of a child or the shocking awareness that our teen is deeply involved in drugs or gangs. Or that our health is slowly deteriorating with aging.
There are a thousand ways our life can be turned inside out and upside down in the blink of an eye. At such times, we feel like a deer frozen in the headlights of an oncoming car: paralyzed, unable to move. Shock protects us for a short time, but when it wears off, the magnitude of our circumstances hits full force.
At a women’s retreat, I asked, “Who has experienced stress in the past week?”
All hands went up. I then asked how they knew they were stressed. Their comments ranged from “constantly feeling overwhelmed” to “exhausted.”
They were unable to get everything done that was expected of them and there was little time left for pleasure or relaxation. They felt there was never enough time, there was too much to do, and they were constantly required to learn something new.
As I jotted their responses on the white board, I was reminded again of just how many demands are placed on us every day and the heavy toll it can have on our lives.
Years ago, as part of a design team developing a ten-week program for individuals living with chronic illness and pain, I produced and recorded my first relaxation audio recording for Kaiser Permanente.
I produced a second one some years later with an Emmy-nominated friend who composed the background music for it.
As you listen and follow the instructions in my Relaxation audio, you will focus on the process of breathing. You will tighten different muscle groups, breathe deeply, and then release the tension as you breathe out.
When practiced each day for at least 30 days, you will become aware of where you hold your tension and will learn how to quickly release that tension.
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.
Like summer wildfires, the results of anger unleashed and unchecked by logic or reason can leave behind destroyed relationships and ruined lives. Left unrestrained, our lives can become tinder boxes ready to explode with just a spark of irritation.
Anger, like fear, is a great stressor when it becomes the norm for dealing with life’s problems.
As therapists, we see the effects 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.
“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.