You sit down on your easy chair, remote in hand and start surfing. One of your favorite brain dead reality shows comes on and you sink in to enjoy the escape.
But before you really get into the zone, you begin to feel your heart race.
“Drat! Why aren’t weekends three days long…then I’d have some time to really relax.”
Just thinking about going back to the job on Monday sends a ripple through your body that ends squeezing your stomach queezy.
Your last nerve is frazzled.
One more bill…one more phone call…one more demand…
“Go away…just go away.â€
You feel like jumping off a cliff would be welcome relief.
“Put me out of my misery.”
You may even be engaging in murderous fantasies of your boss, coworkers, kids, mother-in-law or spouse.
thinking of paying Guido’s cousin (twice removed) 50 bucks to take out a knee cap (or two)…
What you need now isn’t love sweet love – it’s a quaalude with a beer chaser as a start, just to take the edge off.
This is no Kodak moment.
You’ve had it and you’re not gonna take it anymore!
I’ve been asked, “How do you deal positively with stress?” Good question.
First, you must recognize that stress is inescapable; itâ€™s a natural part of life. It’s a part of life – youâ€™re not going to eliminate it. So if you’re not having any stress, you’re either dead or heavily medicated.
Stress alerts you to things in your environment, things that you should be paying attention to. It signals you by making you feel uncomfortable, usually by precipitating the feeling of anxiety.
Stress helps protect you by forcing you into awareness, and then (hopefully) into action.
It’s an invisible, automated sentry system, an antennae that interacts with the environment without your knowing. It then initiates a response based on the feedback it receives.
Heck, I want the ‘stress’ that comes from my automated sentry alerting me to a rattle snake rattling and coiling in my path, that is, instead of the realization of two fang marks in my calf!
The key to coping with stress is to determine your personal tolerance levels for stressful situations, evaluate each situation, and develop AND implement a plan to act accordingly.
What does THAT really mean?
Well to keep a healthy balance, you â€˜ll want to learn to accept or change stressful or tense situations whenever possible…with the end result being a diminishing or decreasing of your overall stress level.
Why would this be important?
When you deny or stuff feeling of stress instead of taking action to minimize it or reacting consciously to it, you help it become much bigger than it initially was. It eventually takes on a life of itâ€™s own until it becomes unbearable and subsequently reeks havoc with your life.
Thatâ€™s the problem with wallowing in the stress. It can be very destructive.
Case in point: Remember this illustration –
I learned sometime ago that you can literally boil a frog to death with him happily not knowing it…that is – if you turn up the water temperature a degree at a time. At each increase in temperature, if you allow the frog acclimates to the heat, it becomes his new norm.
The frog will appear comfortable and happy, until he finally dies of being slowly cooked to death.
The same thing can happen to you.
Instead of getting out of the frying pan or recoiling from touching a hot stove, you may make excuses for the frying pain being hot, or go back time and time again to touch the hot stove to check out if it’s cooled down.
Have I lost you? Let me bring it home.
You can continue to acclimate to higher and higher levels of stress until it becomes pathological…until it results in hypertension (high blood pressure), heart attacks (#1 time of death is Monday morning BEFORE going back to work), mental breakdown, suicide, depression, alcoholism, drug usage (illicit or prescription), pathological anxiety (example: panic attacks), hyperacidity, ulcers, acid reflux, irritable bowels, insomnia, chronic fatigue, decreased resistance to disease, phobias, anergy (lack of energy) and disorders in your primary relationships…to name a few.
Nothing changes until YOU change it.
And the change starts with YOU – not someone else.
So although most people unconsciously choose to change their reactions to the stress – or their awareness of it – by suppressing it, that doesn’t mean that your body’s protective mechanism agrees or suppresses it’s response.
No, no, NO!
Many times your body continues to mount a defense, trying to protect you…in a way, trying to shake you, wake you up, to FORCE you into action…or into REaction. This is a subconscious and essentially autonomic function (not under voluntary control).
And, that is usually the seed for pathological anxiety if ignored and consciously suppressed.
In part 2 of this article, we’ll talk about some interventions you can use to deflate, derail and demolish your stress.
aka Dr. J