Have you been busy lately? Do you ever get so stressed you become overwhelmed or paralyzed? Stress is the biological, emotional, behavioral, and social response to a real or imagined event. When anxiety and stress are low, motivation and performance levels remain low as well. Some stress can be motivating. As stress and anxiety go up, performance levels also rise, but only to a certain point. Increased stress causes a tipping point, and more anxiety beyond that point actually decreases performance levels. In fact, under high levels of stress, performance plummets and people may feel paralyzed and shut down.
Stress is, of course, common in every day life making it important to learn how to manage worry, anxiety, and stress better. Unmanaged stress and runaway worry saps our limited supply of emotional energy, depleting our reserves and giving nothing in return. Being able to quickly identify the cause of stress and then rapidly developing a stress management plan is a vital skill to master.
Coping with Stress
Most people spend their time and attention trying to manage specific problems, but spend little effort managing their own emotional reactions to stressful situations. In my opinion, most things in life are made up of two parts. If you’re driving in winter weather, you must control your driving and manage your anxiety while you drive. If you are seeing your probation officer, you are careful in your conversation with the officer and you must manage the anxiety while you have the conversation. If you go to an interview, it too has two parts. You must control the way you conduct yourself in the interview and manage your anxiety about the interview. Most people pay little attention to their own anxious thoughts, and have far too little skill to manage the stress effectively. My point is, you must be problem focused and emotion focused. Both parts of stress management are important, and both can be improved.
Three Skills to Manage Stress
1. Stay positive
Write a list of positive characteristics, attitudes, personality traits, and attributes you possess. Regular review will increase your self-esteem and act as a defense against stress, worry, and anxiety. Worry is often filled with negative thoughts about the future and negative statements about one’s inability to handle it. Practice speaking positively to yourself about yourself to increase self-confidence. Seeing yourself positively can increase motivation. When you see yourself in a favorable light, you tend to have more energy and believe more strongly in your ability to accomplish tasks. This in turn enables you to better manage stress. Use positive self talk to manage your mood and attitude as you approach a difficult or worrisome situation. Remind yourself of your strengths and abilities.
2. Increase self-control
Developing self-control will allow you to better manage your mood and your behavior. You are not able to control other people, every situation, or other people’s reaction to you. However, you can control your disposition, attitude, and character. Keep a positive, upbeat, and optimistic attitude. Practice making decisions. Decide to look for work, determine to pay a bill, and choose to work your recovery rather than living life forced or coerced. Smile, laugh, and enjoy your life. Be known for having the best attitude and best character.
3. Be proactive in solving problems
Most situations almost always become worse when you procrastinate or avoid them. Develop your goals and then stick to your plan. Having set goals allows you to stay purposeful in your actions. Many situations merely become worse when you procrastinate. Procrastination will add to your stress level causing you to feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Not every problem or difficulty can be solved. But almost nothing can be done unless you take responsibility for your own actions. Blame shifting and excusing your behavior will not allow you to focus your energies on solving problems. Focus on what you can control, not what you cannot.
Up for the Challenge
Stressful situations cannot be eliminated, yet anxiety and worry can be managed. Progressive muscle relaxation, guided meditation, and deep breathing exercises are all ways to produce a relaxation response. Watch for negative thoughts creeping in that insult your intelligence, mock your talent, and dismiss your perseverance. Controlling your own mood and attitude is possible and can be increased over time with practice. Identifying what problems can be eliminated, solved, or managed is also a skill that can be developed. Face challenges head on with confidence, knowing you are strong, confident, and fully able to manage any and all stressful situations when they come.
Recovery is a journey. Enjoy the ride!