The way to love someone
is to lightly run your finger over that person's soul
until you find a crack,
and then gently pour your love into that crack.
~Keith Miller

Friday, July 8, 2011

Stress management - Balance is the GOAL

I love goals ... targets ... objectives ... planned outcomes. Well ... I sure do love to meander aimlessly also, but that's a different kind of thing. I like the structure that intentional supplies.

So, I feel comfortable with this approach as a place to start thinking about managing stress:

The goal is to balance time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun ... plus (or maybe and) develop the resilience to hold up to the demands of your life and meet your challenges head on.

Identify your stressors ... It's not just some random list. For example, driving in big city traffic in general doesn't bother me but it stresses my husband out ... I actually look forward to it. I like the hubbub of a lot of people moving about together ... on the roadways and just in life in general. A traffic jam means I can hear the entire segment of Hardcore History (Dan Carlin ... good stuff). I have developed an affinity for the slower pace that my life is lived at, but if I had only myself to think about, I know I would live in a more cosmopolitan setting and take breaks with nature. Tonight we will see a movie ... that is basically what is available entertainment-wise out here in the sticks. There is nothing showing that I would choose to see and haven't already seen. Yes, it is fortunate that I have a movie night to look forward to, but wouldn't it be great if we could actually go walk around the zoo rather then sit through a zoo movie? I did a lot of my homework at the zoo in Ft. Worth ... I love that zoo ... Zoo Atlanta rocks too, but it is too far away for a little date night ... that is an example of how a bucolic setting can wear on you. My big goofy deal for tonight's movie is playing that little dress up game I devised for movie night ... I have a zebra pattern clutch ... my nod to Zoo Keeper, my daughters will think it's pretty funny ... This is how we amuse ourselves out here. Three months in the middle of nowhere sounds heavenly, then, pretty soon, I know I'm going to be hoping to see some neon ... and hear some music (possible playing at high decibels). So, identify your stressors, and as you do this, find places where you can take responsibility for your role in creating and/or maintaining the stress load.
Someone recommended a "stress journal" where you note each stressful incident, what caused it, how you felt physically and emotionally at the time, how you responded to it, and did your response make you feel better. I will never do a stress journal. I know what is stressing me out most of the time ... if I don't, it's only because I choose not to.
Here's a little list of where stress tries to take us ...
Zoning with TV or computer
Sleeping too much
Filling up the day with activities in order to avoid facing problems
Releasing your stress on others - lashing out, angry outbursts, physical violence
It's important to figure out what your stress default mode is, because, if it's one of these unhealthy ones, it just compounds the stressful problem. I know I was having a stress spike the other day when I sat down with Jose ... two shots did not make me feel better ... I knew they wouldn't. The deal is, you are absolutely able to change the situation, change your reaction to it, or a combination of the two. What's that quote about doing the same thing and expecting different results ... Brb.

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
~Albert Einstein

Oh, hello Einstein!

So, how can I change the situation? Somewhere in the reading this idea surfaced: either avoid or alter the stressor. And change my reaction by either adapting to the stressor, or accepting the stressor. They had a few examples (I don't think it's quite this cut and dry, but maybe food for thought):
°Keep your workload manageable ... Say no to too much ... If too much has to happen, plan some recuperative time to offset it. I've gotten a lot better at managing my volunteer work over the years. Prioritizing helped me with that.
°Limit your exposure to people, events, places, etc. that stress you out. My mom stresses me out ... even at the beach, she stresses me out, and the truth is ... I probably stress her out too. That's a pretty significant relationship ... there are ways to avoid the stress without avoiding the point of stress. In this case, it was important enough to me to figure out to avoid the hot spots. Some people, events, or places are beyond the cost of exposure to ... Spend your time on more productive or pleasing pursuits. The reading mentioned finding a less stressful route to work or move close enough to walk ... be creative ... you're not stuck!
°avoid hot button topics ... Yours, Theirs, Ours ... Don't push buttons and don't let your buttons be pushed. It is actually fun to observe this button pushing dealio ... it has been developed to a science here in my house where we have two parents and five children. Over time, my children have taught me where my buttons are. I have observed that our most adroit button pusher of all is also the most adept at not allowing his buttons to be pushed ... AND ... He is also amazing at rebooting people when their buttons have been pushed. I love to watch him work his magic. Now that he is grown up, he just stirs the pot enough to make things interesting ... stopping short of sloshing people's stuff around.
ALTER I haven't been real successful here, but I'm working on this area ...
°express your feelings rather then bottle them up ... Maybe I do that here some.
°be more assertive ... don't take a back seat in your own life ... deal with problems head on, trying to anticipate and prevent problems from becoming too much. I think this is an important one ... There is a significant cost attached to constantly rolling over on everything. Assertive is absolutely appropriate ... advocate for yourself as you would a friend. Putting IT off, hoping things will improve, is risky business at best.
ADAPT ... This I actually rock ... I coulda written this section with no outside help!
°reframe - rather then fume about a traffic jam or a wait in line, see it as down time to listen to a podcast or people watch
°get a big picture picture perspective ... Will this matter a week/month from now? Look for the humor and humanity in things ... Give yourself and everyone else a break! Focus on gratitude, appreciation, your own strengths and good fortune.
ACCEPT ... If it's acceptable, those things you can not change. The behavior of other people is outside your/my control. Focus on how you choose to address difficult situations and difficult people. Major challenges are opportunities for personal growth. All the articles mentioned how important it is to learn how to forgive ... find a way to let go of anger and resentment ... it is a major key needed to unlock yourself from the bonds of stress. Something I read said something like, Anger keeps you from being able to see and address your route out of where angry takes you. Anger is part of stress soup, for sure.
those are some ideas for developing a proactive approach to filtering stress. Here are a few ideas for relieving stress.
Nurture yourself ... novel idea for a lot of people.
Here is the best of the to do list offered in my reading ... Walk, run, work out, be outside, savor a treat, get a massage, listen to music, laugh, ... Spend time with people you enjoy being around ... Enjoy your work ... Maintain a positive attitude about where and how you spend a lot of your time. I love that laughter was mentioned we several times. I really enjoy laughing and I'm actively seeking sure-fire places for a quick laugh stop.
Every article I read mentioned the importance of a healthy life style ... One article told me what that would look like in adulthood: balance means a calm state of energy, alertness, focus and productivity ... If you're not feeling like that most of the time, you may be too stressed.

This was my favorite part of the information I read . All that other stuff seems like stuff we've all heard many times before.

How do humans react to stress?
Internally, the body part of us, everyone experiences the same responses to stress (in varying degrees) ... blood pressure rises ... Heart pumps faster .... Muscles constrict . Stress works our bodies hard and undermines our immune system. ... Lotsa stress ... Lotsa fuel to burn that fire. Stress is an ager of people. Here comes the interesting part:
Externally, people tend to react in three separate ways:
1. Get angry and agitated ... aggressively confrontational
2. Zone out ... withdraw ... non-confrontational ... blow it off
3. Freeze up
And the antidotes to these responses: (yeah, I'm excited about this because I knowknowknow it's true)
1. Anger is an overexcited stress response ... Practice relief activities which will quiet you down ... Things like yoga and calming hikes through the woods ... prayer ... chill out.
2. Withdrawal is an under excited response ... which takes you towards depression ... Relief activities for this type responder would be to find stimulating, energizing activities ... like flying is for me, and like driving too fast (yes, on a motorcycle if that's what you get to do) and maybe roller coaster rides or racket ball ... white water rafting ... all the fun stuff ... thrill out.
3. Freeze up ... Uh ... I don't do this ever and they didn't offer a very satisfying antidote for this response ... All they said was find a safe and stimulating way to re-boot your system ... So I am going to make something up here ... take a tepid bath ... light some vanilla scented candles ... and have some safe predictable sex ... If that doesn't reboot you try one of the above activities.

Here is a bonus item that I couldn't fit anywhere up above ... Age doesn't quash our spirit of adventure. I absolutely love that! The few extra years that making adjustments for stress ... finding creative ways to push back the penalties of stress ... systematically loosening the grio that stress has on your life ... it's worth it! Alot of the cool stuff is yet to come. If your job or where you live is stressing you out, figure out how to address it. Maybe the slightest tweak would make all the difference.
I read an article this morning about Alabama's former Governor Bob Riley ... He laid his Harley over during a little ride around up in Alaska ... I'm sorry he had an accident, but I'm really glad he was going for it. He worked hard and he rewarded himself with some playtime. I bet he'll be right back at it after he recuperates ... probably planning his next adventure already.

For me ... In this dance I do with stress ... I'm going to see if there are any patterns in what triggers my stress response. Sometimes I get angry or frustrated, sometimes I withdraw and blow it off sorta. As possible responses to stress, I like both yoga and taebo ... I like Amadeus and AC/DC ... knowing what approach will render the best results was worth the effort of looking at this again ... I'm all hooked up now. Stress breaks seem to be at least as important as any of the other stuff we all know to do for our physical/mental/spiritual health.
Watch the Salposky program. I read several of his articles ... Just skip to the findings if you go that far. I think his work is going to help us all.

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