Stress: Run With It Or Run Away

Stress is an aspect of life we all come to deal with at a very young age. The older you get, the more you become adept at handling it, although it seems like stress can come at you from all angles and different sources depending on the time of day. Work stress- family stress- obligation stress- friend stress- and often the most critical of them all- living up to your own expectations stress.

When I first dealt with stress, I would be in complete denial. I would want to push problems onto other people. I’d act like I was the victim of my own circumstances, and it was everyone else’s fault for the choices that I made. Pretty soon, no one wanted to come to the pity party I was having anymore.

I’ve learned through years of reading self-help, personal development and psychology books about the subject that if you really sit down and look at stress, often the perception of the events that are happening have been magnified so much in your mind that you are making a bigger deal about the situation than is really necessary.

It took me 30 years to bowl a perfect 300 game in league or tournament play. Had I thrown 12 strikes in a row before? Certainly- at one time I had a night where I bowled 18 strikes in a row (10 to end one game, 8 to start the next). Then why did I have 5 chances to shoot 300 and only on the sixth opportunity did I achieve my goal? I put worry and stress ahead of the task at hand- just thinking of the next shot. If you’ve been able to visualize in your mind what you need to do and put 100% commitment and effort to letting your mind go and just executing- whatever happens will naturally happen.

The next week after throwing my first 300 game, I bowled a 299 game. Later that season I threw another 300 game- and didn’t stress out about the final shots because I knew already what to do. I realized that to do anything well in life, you can’t be stressed, anger or frustrated. You can’t will the process- you have to trust your instincts and exude a form of calm confidence that you’ve been there before- even if it’s only running the tapes of what will happen hundreds of times with visualization and rehearsals.

Teaching this concept to my two adoptive daughters hasn’t been easy. They run with the tapes in their minds of their past abuse and trauma. When in a heightened state of agitation or excitement, they become powerful and try to control their environment as they had to in the past when their birth families couldn’t do the right thing. We’ve been communicating the idea to each of them that having anger as an emotion is natural- and that it’s ok to be fearful of what can happen in life at times. However, how you go about handling these stresses is the key to leading a healthy life.

So should we run with stress or run away from it? I believe that running away from the problem doesn’t solve the problem- it only puts it on the backburner. You’ll eventually have to face whatever issue is causing the stress head on at some point- because avoidance just weakens your resolve and then your caught back in a denial/ victim stance. Take the time to find a friend or family member if you need to discuss the issue or issues on the table and get a second/ third objective opinion. Maybe you need to keep a journal with you and write things out as they occur. Possibly with putting the problem at the top of the page and brainstorming for a few minutes on possible scenarios to solve the situation or action steps you need to take.

I find that playing music opens my mind and outlook when I’m stressed out. I’ll listen to aggressive music if I’m in a heightened state and I find I’ll be much calmer after a little while. Sometimes I’ll read for hours. Other times I’ve been known to do a little domestic chore or two (which weirded out my wife and kids at first, yet they like the house being cleaner when that happens!). Taking it out on other humans isn’t in my nature. You can’t meet stress with anger. It only leads to more stress.

Let me know how you handle stress in your day to day life- as well as possible solutions that have worked for you. Maybe we can help each other learn a new tool for our toolbox of fixes- and minimize stress so we can lead happier, more productive and fulfilling lives.

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