None of us escapes stress in our lives. When we deal with it positively we escape its damage and grow stronger in the bargain.
Check out the following posts for more on stress reduction:
Yesterday I had a series of events that would have had my hands trembling with frustration and stress a year ago. However, I have been using some tools for dealing with stress that served me very well. Maybe this recounting will help you to do the same.
The day started with a dentist visit. That wasn’t the stressor. I was simply having a crown fitted. The problem was that the appointment was at 9:00 AM. The weather forecast said very hot.
Stressor number one. Normally, I would be out first thing in the morning to ride my bicycle and avoid the afternoon’s extreme heat. But, I couldn’t because I had to go to the dentist. A year ago, I would have raced off to the dentist fretting about how hot it was going to be and all the attendant difficulties. I chose not to. The dentist visit was something I needed to do and I decided that I would adjust my riding accordingly even if it meant riding in hotter weather than I would have liked. It was simply a matter of priorities. I looked at it in a positive way. When I finished with the appointment I relaxed and walked home, I didn’t race home to save seconds and stress myself further. I changed clothes, got the dog and went downstairs to the bike room.
Stressor number two. My bicycle speedometer battery had died. I needed to go to the bike shop and get it replaced. That would set me back at least a further 15 minutes. Take a deep breath; let it out slow. Okay, I could deal with that. The alternative of riding without a speedometer and odometer was not acceptable as how many miles I ride is relevant to me. I rode down to the bike shop.
Stressor number three. My two regular bike mechanics weren’t there. They are familiar with my speedometer and have changed the batteries before. I was going to be stuck a longer time as the new guy figured out the workings of the little gadget. Take a deep breath; let it out slow. Okay, it’s still a day I can ride. So, that is a plus for me. Just a little further delay to deal with. The new guy got it changed, reprogrammed and I was ready to go. The charge $3.00. No biggie. But wait, it rained the other day and I had to hang up my cycling shorts to dry out. I keep my money in the pocket. The shorts are still hanging up in the bathroom and I am wearing a different pair. I have no money! Take a deep breath; let it out slow.
When I was a kid and watched hundreds of double feature cowboy movies on Saturday afternoons, one of the phrases that I heard in almost every movie was, “Let’s head ’em off at the pass.” I knew the bad guys didn’t have a chance to get away because the good guys always headed them off.
The Harvard Medical School has produced a special 52 page report on stress management and offered some superb guidelines on exactly that. It is called Cognitive Restructuring.
Here is an example: “Stop for a moment and try to remember the thoughts that were running through your head the last time you were late for work. Perhaps a simple thought, such as “the train is late,” quickly transformed into “I’ll be late to work. I won’t make it to my meeting on time. My boss will be angry with me. My job is in jeopardy. This always happens to me.”
The report offers examples of these distortions and suggests we use the following list to become aware of negative thought patterns and try to substitute more realistic, positive ones.
■ “All or nothing. Everything is black or white; nothing is gray. If you don’t perform flawlessly, you consider yourself a complete failure.
■ “Overgeneralization. One negative event, such as a slight from your spouse or an encounter with a dishonest merchant, is perceived to be part of an endless pattern of dismaying circumstances and defeat. For example, you might think, “He’s always cold” or “You can’t trust anyone.”
■ “Mental filter. One negative episode, such as a rude comment made to you during an otherwise enjoyable evening, shades everything like a drop of food coloring in a glass of water. It’s as though you are filtering out all the light and only see darkness.
■ “Disqualifying the positive. You are unable or unwilling to accept a compliment or praise. You deflect all compliments with self-deprecation. You might say, “It’s no big deal” or “It was nothing.”
■ “Jumping to conclusions. You draw negative conclusions without checking to see if they have any foundation in fact. You may be mind-reading: “My friend seems upset; she must be mad at me.” Or you may be fortune-telling: “I just know the results of my medical test won’t be good.”
■ “Magnification or minimization. You exaggerate potential problems or mistakes until they take on the proportions of a catastrophe. Or you minimize anything that might make you feel good, such as appreciation for a kind act you did or the recognition that other people have flaws, too.