Immunise Yourself from Stress
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Teresa Mulvena, CBT Cert, MA Counselling, MBACP (senior accredited)
13th May, 2009
People who manage stress well tend to have the following characteristics and coping mechanisms:
1.They build up supportive networks: It’s not just about the support networks that are available to you, but also about your ability to let people know what is going on for you.
2.They can let others know when things are difficult. If you value being someone who always copes, it can be hard to admit when things are difficult. Remember always being strong is impossible. There is no such person. Everyone is a mix, and everyone feels vulnerable at some point.
3.They don’t put their eggs in one basket: It is important to get satisfaction in more than one area, such as activity unassociated with work, so that work isn’t all that defines you (and therefore your worth).
4.They have realistic expectations of themselves: they are not perfectionists, and can give themselves a break, and they also expect they will be forgiven for mistakes. They don’t believe their value is completely tied up in always achieving.
5.They take care of themselves: You never hear someone say that they didn’t have time to get dressed today. We consider it a usual part of life. With self-care, we all know what we should be doing to look after ourselves - eating well, getting enough sleep, watching our alcohol intake, and exercising regularly. Change the way you think so that self-care is not an optional extra, but an essential part of looking after yourself, - as much as getting dressed in the morning is.
6.They deal with problems effectively: Feeling stressed may be about your perception, - the meaning of events and your reactions, and hence the question “What can I change in myself?” However it may be a sign that something external needs to change. The skill is in knowing what can and should be changed, and what can’t be. Having stressful problems hanging over your head can make the most saintly person feel irritable. Invest some time in thinking through strategies to handle difficult problems, and talk it over with someone you trust.
7.They communicate assertively: This is a balance between not bottling up feelings, not over-reacting, but communicating clearly in a way that is respectful of yourself and others. It includes the ability to say “no” when you need to. Otherwise there can be consequences to your health, your relationships, and how you feel about yourself.
8.They remain calm under pressure: It’s 30 degrees, the train’s broken down, most people are pretty exasperated, and everyone’s blood pressure is rising. How difficult this is if you have to be somewhere important or you are in a hurry. If not, it is possible to have more choice in how you react. Like a good boy scout you can counter this time wasting by being prepared. It will be different for everyone, but it might be some favourite music you can turn up loud and zone out, a good book (fantastic, you’ll now have more time to read it), or a chance to ring a friend you haven’t spoken to for a while. You could choose not to fill in the time, but use it as some thinking time. It won’t make the train go, but if you can tell yourself that the world won’t end, and it really doesn’t matter if you’re late you will feel more in control. You might even feel a little triumphant, and pleased with yourself, as those around you stress out while you are an oasis of calm.
9.They have perspective: People who’ve had an experience of a life changing or life-threatening event like a bereavement, or being involved in an accident or serious illness, often report that the effect is that they no longer sweat the small stuff. Compared with these larger issues the smaller irritations feel irrelevant. Maybe we can all try to remember this, and adopt this attitude, - without having to endure the trauma that leads to this realisation.
10.They create positive experiences: What determines success in a relationship is not the absence of negative interactions, but rather the proportion of positives to negatives. We all know couples that argue passionately and the next minute laugh together. Maybe it is the same with life – it’s not so much about the amount of stressors or negative events that happen to you, but whether they are countered by positive experiences. You may not have much control over some of life’s irritations but you can do something about putting some good things in. Making one small change to give yourself something positive can help. This might be relaxation, yoga, putting your feet up, a weekend break.
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