Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The one thing that will get rid of stress

Could this be you?

"What is the one thing that will get rid of my stress?" someone asks.

I ask back, "What is the one thing that caused it?"

That usually prompts a litany that goes something like this: "Well, I've had to work late the past few weeks. Sally is out sick, so I'm covering some of her work. Plus, I have a new client; big project, big headaches, you know how it is. Little League started last week, so I have to rush home, pick up Jimmy and Bobby, grab dinner on the way over there. My husband Dan can't help as much as he used to because his company has him traveling a lot now, after his promotion. I noticed a water spot on the kitchen ceiling after that rain we had, I think there's a leak in the roof…I'll have to call someone on that when I have a second. Yeah, speaking of the kitchen, lately I've been experiencing a bit of heartburn…what's up with that? Oh, and our dog is at the vet…the neighbor's little boy bit him…cute kid, but a little strange; I don't think his parents pay enough attention to him……"

At first sight, you may think there are a lot of things causing this woman's stress although she is hopeful that one thing will cure it. You may even identify with a lot of her stressors if you are overwhelmed with work, family, house, dog, and other tasks.

There are a lot of ways to reduce stress in this situation: have another co-worker help with Sally's tasks; ask another Little League mom to take the boys and arrange to drop off her kids after the practice.

However, if this is you, and if you carefully read between the lines, you will see that there really is only one thing that causes stress: YOU. Your attitude and behavior determines whether you are stressed-out or stress-free.

Does the fictitious, overburdened worker-wife-mother reciting the litany of problems have a choice? Do you have a choice? Absolutely.

The thing you need to examine is your motivation.

What motivates you to live a stressed-out life? What motivates your attitude and behavior? Boiled down to the most basic components, it's a combination of three things: status, money, power: wanting them, getting them, keeping them.

I'm not implying any of these things is bad in and of itself, but if you really want to beat stress and not just complain about how it's ruining your life, you have to do it on an honest playing field.

Frankly, I think there are a lot of people out there who just want to complain about it. In fact, complaining about stress has become a status symbol; if you're not stressed out, there must be something wrong with you. Not only that, people moan and groan about how stressed-out they are, but use every excuse to reject every stress-reducing or stress-eliminating technique they read about because it's too hard, it's too easy, it takes too much time, it won't work for me (even though they have never tried it), it costs too much, it's too cheap so it must not be any good, I'm too busy to go to it…..and on and on. If you are one of those people, then God Bless You…you're going to need it.

To get back to motivation: if you truly want to reduce stress and achieve a stress-free lifestyle (yes, it really is possible!), you must be completely honest with yourself.

If, along with the money, status, or power, you have high blood pressure, a heart condition, Acid Reflux Disease, high cholesterol, insomnia, constant headaches, and (fill in the blank), you must feel disease and suffering is worth the status, money, and power.

That's fine, and I truly have no problem with it, but if that is what you have chosen, you must also realize that you can choose how you deal with the stress it can bring.

For the people who really do want to reduce stress, back to the original question: "What is the one thing that will get rid of your stress?"

Answer: YOU.

YOU are the best disease-preventative you have. YOU are the only thing that will get rid of your stress. It calls for making big changes in mind and emotion, attitude and behavior, to reconsider and revise the way you think and act.

A while ago I wrote about the Ecosystem of YOU. I want to emphasize again that YOU are a whole and holistic system (whether you treat yourself that way or not) of spirit, mind, emotion, and physical body. Whatever you do to one part of YOU affects every single other part of you, your whole person.

To get rid of your stress, take responsibility for yourself. Don't expect your employer, your doctor, you mother, your family to take care of you. They won't. They're too busy expecting you to take care of them. (If that wasn't true, you probably wouldn't be working late, paying for anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications, and rushing around like a headless chicken to get all the errands done.)

If you can't change your attitude or behavior, you must leave the circumstances that cause your stress, or get help in coping with them. Just as with any repetitive physical injury that returns if you continue the behavior that caused it, if you are suffering mental or emotional stress but remain in the circumstances that cause it, you may find temporary relief, but no lasting cure.

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