Worry Break: The Busy Woman’s Guide to Less Stress (Part Two)
Fay here, back with part 2 of my series on stress (for part one, click here).
The holiday season can be chaotic and stressful. Plenty of us get time off from work, but rarely is that time we get to spend resting, relaxing, and rejuvenating.
So, you may think I’m publishing this series now as part of some “survive the holidays” theme. And you’re partly right.
But more than that, I want to see people understand stress and adopt better coping mechanisms over the long haul and leading into the new year. As you learned in part one, carrying around too much stress can lead to a number of mental and physical problems. Stress can literally derail your life, career and your relationships.
The Three A’s of Stress Management
The key to managing stress starts with the Three A’s:
Avoid the stress that you bring on yourself (poor choices and negative thinking)
Accept the stress that you have no control over (other people’s choices, reactions, behaviors)
Adjust the stress you have control over by changing the way you think about it
We need to gain control of our emotions and thoughts if we are to control our stress. Thoughts lead to behavior and behavior can lead to emotional issues like stress.
Avoid: Stress that we create for ourselves is avoidable. For instance, arriving to work stressed and irritated because we were rushed and running late is something within our control. Simple adjustments to our daily routines - getting up 15 minutes earlier, meal prepping in advance, etc. - can make it so we leave home earlier and arrive to work in the right mindset.
Accept: Then there’s the stress we can’t necessarily control and have to accept. Keeping with the above example. Even leaving for work earlier doesn’t guarantee that we won’t run into some traffic on our drive. That may be something we simply have to accept. Another example would be accepting that we cannot control our loved one’s behaviors and, therefore, shouldn’t allow ourselves to get overly stressed (or rush to save them) when they make bad choices. Usually with acceptance, we have to adjust.
Adjust: Keeping with our example. Once we’ve accepted that traffic is an unavoidable part of our daily commute, we can adjust how we deal with it. For instance, having set music playlists that make our drive more enjoyable or commuting with someone. In the case of loved ones who make bad choices, we can adjust by it’s our job to love and support them with boundaries, not enable or coddle them, which encourages more bad choices.
Remember this: Thoughts → Behavior → Emotion
Marcus Aurelius is credited with saying:
If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.
That means it’s not a situation itself that is stressful, but our perception of that situation. So it’s important that we monitor our thoughts for truth, rather than allowing them to control our lives.
The key to thought stopping or management is replacing negative habit patterns with positive ones using the 5-second rule. It helps to break the cognitive distortion cycle, and gets you back on track.
So, when you have a negative thought, count, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and STOP. Lingering on the negative leads to ruination.
My Personal Strategies
Lastly, here are five of my favorite strategies to help break the cycle of stress.
1. Accept what is, as it is, including you and others.
Don’t wish, imagine, nag, and complain for something to be different than what it is. Aim for better but act and make decisions based on what is, not what you wish it to be. Be loving and kind to yourself. Let go of the past, and anything and anyone that hinders your growth and development.
2. Stop people-pleasing and over-analyzing.
Let go of energy draining toxic drama-filled relationships. Learn to say no without explanation. Prioritize your peace and self-care. Do not allow others to guilt or shame you into anything. (Just because you are the one with a job, for example, doesn’t mean you must share your income with unemployed people.)
Stop overextending yourself. Set boundaries. Have standards. Find out what you like, want and value and if others don’t get you or what you’re about, so what? Either people will accept the authentic you or they will fall off, and that’s okay.
It may be uncomfortable and lonely at first, but the freedom that will ultimately come is well worth it. Above all, to thine own self be true. Eventually, the right people will come along and appreciate and celebrate the real you.
3. Communicate and speak up for yourself, even if your voice shakes.
A closed mouth doesn’t get fed. Ask for what you want and need. Don’t expect people to read your mind. If something offends or bothers you speak on it, in love and respect.
Learn to label and communicate your feelings (e.g., “I am disappointed,” or “I am sad,” or any other feelings like confused, angry, hurt, frustrated) without lashing out and being critical.
If you don’t speak on matters that bother you, you are conveying that you are ok with what’s happening. Ask yourself, does your communication style create connection or conflict. Be kind or be quiet.
4. Tell the truth.
Tell and seek the truth always, especially to yourself. If you drink wine/alcohol daily and find it difficult to stop, own the truth that you may have developed a serious habit. If you got a bum of a man or woman, own it and own the fact that you choose to remain in the relationship because you fear the unknown.
Don’t tell yourself or others a lie to cover up your true feelings. If you’re still waiting on a promotion after 5 years, it may be time to accept the low down dirty truth that it ain’t gon’ happen there, and either move on or decide to stay.
Own your truth and what you’re about. And own that you can and shall do better, if you choose. When people show you who they are believe them. Refuse to be a glutton for punishment or attempt to be a ‘savior’ in the name of mistreatment
5. Know the power of thought, words and positive affirmations.
As a man thinks, so is he. Be mindful of your thoughts and words. Are your thoughts and words loving or critical? Do your thoughts and words help or hinder? Does it uplift or tear down?
Speak life. Don’t complain about matters that you have the power and choice to change. Remember you always have a choice. Own your life. Share your testimony. Speak of God’s goodness.
Identify a positive statement/affirmation and repeat it often. And watch how over time, a shift for the better will start to vibrate within your spirit leading you towards growth, and away from nonsense.
Stress is a reality of life that we all have to deal with. Feeling stressed doesn't make you weak, everyone experiences it.
But you can learn how to manage your stress so it doesn't control your life. You can learn how to listen to your body and calm you mind in the midst of any storm so you don't lose sight of the goals you have for yourself or the path that will lead you there.
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