I don’t know anyone who isn’t busy these days. Even little kids are busy. It’s hard to imagine that we expect two year olds to be on time. These days, much of our population doesn’t even know there was a time when their parents worked only 40 hours per week. Many of today’s parents have to work a second job just to make ends meet. During any given week, kids may hear their parents talk about looking for work, quitting their jobs, loving their jobs, hating their jobs, or expressing fear of getting laid off. It’s no wonder that our children are terrified to enter the world of work; we’ve become stress monsters. With great concern about the effects of stress on our mental and physical well-being, I offer the following New Year’s Considerations.
Reconsider the problem of time. Many of us place ourselves in impossible situations. We underestimate the amount of time we need to do things (such as driving time), we take on too much, and we work longer and longer hours until eventually, we begin to think of 12 hour work days as normal. But it’s not normal to work until we drop, and it’s not healthy to deny those messages from within us that tell us to slow down, take care of ourselves, and spend more time relaxing. While work is a healthy habit, addiction to work is not healthy; and it usually takes its toll at home.
Stress: The enemy we play host to? Recently, an article about the holidays bore the title, “Stress: The unwelcome house guest”. But is all stress bad? Psychologists say that stress is part of every aspect of life; it comes along with change. Sometimes we’re the ones instigating change, and sometimes the environment around us is changing. Sometimes stress from making those changes is positive, and sometimes that stress is negative. Positive stress is often associated with motivation, inspiration, creativity, energy and success; whereas negative stress creates the physiological sensation of anxiety. Left unmanaged, the prolonged effects of pressure can take us from stress to strain, which in the long run, can compromise our immune system.
Is Stress a terminal condition? Hopefully not because we have the ability to control stress just by listening to our bodies, our senses, and respecting our feelings. While there’s no doubt that many of us have more physiological distress than others, all of us come equipped with self-awareness, a tool which allows us to cope, relax, and think clearly. To test this out, close your eyes for a moment, pay attention to each of your five senses, and listen messages from your own unconscious mind. Dr. Fritz Perls, Founder of Gestalt Therapy, espoused that “awareness, per se, is curative”. In other words, we can learn a lot just by listening to ourselves.
Beware of chain reactions. I love the now dated cartoon which depicts a dad getting yelled at by his boss, coming home and yelling at his wife, who then yells at the oldest kid, who in turn yells at the middle kid, who then yells at the youngest kid, who then turns to the dog and says, “Just for that, no dinner tonight”. Stress management and anger management go hand in hand. When we take our anger out on others, we miss a great opportunity for communication and problem-solving.
Make a conscious choice to manage your anger. For years, I have taught individuals how to control their anger using Albert Ellis’ Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) Model. This model espouses that we get angry when we feel helpless. Since most of us hate feeling helpless, we often think to ourselves, “well if there’s nothing else I can do, at least I can get angry”! But in truth, anger is not action. Anger is just an emotion that feels like action. What’s worse is that anger not only fails to solve the problem, it often makes things worse.
Finally, make this the year when you develop your self-confidence. When you make decisions, be sure to gather information from yourself, as well as others. Remember to listen to your body! When we fall behind in taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually, everything we do suffers. Make decisions that will be good for you and your family. Practice trusting yourself. Each one of us possesses our own personal goldmine of common sense, flexibility for adapting to change, and an entire lifetime of experience.
©Copyright, 2004, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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