We are continuing our conversation on stress and its impact on our lives. In part 1 we talked about the damaging effects of stress.
We also introduced the idea that it is important to appreciate that stress is ultimately subjective and at its most basic level related to a person’s perception of the pressure upon them. That is why Hans Seyle, who first introduced the concept of stress later regretted using the term saying a more accurate description should have been the strain syndrome.
There is a 3 way relationship between:
1. The demands on the person.
2. The person’s feelings about those demands.
3. The person’s perceived ability to cope with those demands.
So what that means is that a specific task or event can be very stressful on one occasion, but not on another. This will all depend on how you are personally feeling and what the other pressures on you are. In addition to that, what one person finds stressful may not be the same for another person whose perceptions and ways of coping are different.
So what can we do about stress (and strain)?
One of the first steps is awareness (see part 1 and part 2) of the fact that this is an issue or a potential issue in my life. If I am not aware of the different pressures going on in my life then it is very easy for me to be drawn and sucked into feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion. There is also the important distinction to be made between talking to my heart and listening to my heart.
Another important step is to make the paradigm shift (see part 1 and part 2) of seeing that how I look at what is happening to me is as important as what is actually going on in my life. No matter how frenetic things get I still have the power to choose and take responsibility for myself, even if it is at the most basic level of taking control of my breathing and putting myself into the present moment. Stopping during the day to breathe deeply even for as short as a minute or two will help you to think more clearly, slow down your heart rate and improve your mood. I elaborate on this habit of slowing down further in the post entitled ‘How to avoid God‘.
Understand what it is that fills you up emotionally and what it is that drains you emotionally. I was introduced to this idea in my early 40s and it has been of such a help to me. Often when we get busy and feel stressed we tend to stop doing the things that rejuvenate us and give us energy, telling ourselves that we do not have the time to do such things. We maybe even feel guilty that we take time out to do those things. The fact is that each of us has a certain capacity. If we allow ourselves to keep on getting drained then we will reach the point where there is nothing else to give. Stressful situations can then lead to anxiety and if not dealt with an emotional or even nervous breakdown can result.
The question to ask yourself is when do I feel fullest and most alive? And when I am doing those things who am I with and where am I?
I would encourage you to make a list. For me my personal fillers are:
1. Feeling understood.
3. Regular quiet times of prayer and meditation.
4. Sharing and teaching on a deep level.
5. Deep friendships.
6. Bright sunny warm mornings in areas of natural beauty.
At the same time I know there are things that drain and exhaust me:
1. Technical details
2. Negative critical people
3. Sensual material distractions.
4. Empty conversation.
5. Feeling rushed.
So what do I do when my life seems to be getting busy and overwhelming? Well no matter how busy or overwhelming it feels I keep on looking and taking time to do those things that I know will energise me.
In many ways this overlaps with the concept of sharpening the saw we talked about in a previous blog post.
How about you? What are some of the ways you handle stress and overwhelm in your life?
It would be great to have your thoughts and comments below.