Contrary to popular belief, a certain amount of stress is necessary and even beneficial in life. When you experience stress, your brain gets a surge of adrenaline which can lead to quick thinking and creative solutions. The glitch occurs when a situation creates anxiety because the demands of the situation exceed your perceived ability to cope. Most stress is caused by anticipation of the event rather than the event itself and is influenced by your feelings of control. Those who allow others to make decisions for them feel relaxed at the onset but eventually powerless. While those who have a high sense of control feel more stress at the onset but in the long run they are more empowered. You want to ask yourself “who controls my life?” and “what can I control in this situation?” If your reality is stressful and you cannot control a situation or another person, you will want to control your reaction in the following ways:

Stress Detection is the first step because you can only reduce stress once you have recognized that you are feeling it. Awareness of your body is an easy way to determine if you are under stress. Constant headaches, upper or lower back pain, sleep disturbance or a major change in your appetite are clues that all is not well in your life. In addition, frequent bursts of anger, frustration, guilt or unhappiness about events or relationships are red flags.

Rumination is when you continually go over the situation or the conversation you wish you had in your mind. When you curtail rumination, you will decrease stress because it will lower any feelings of anger, anxiety, depression or shame. Once you are aware of the triggers that are causing the stress in your life, you can deliberately create distance from emotional distress by suppressing your thoughts through reframing (April 2008 tip) or using distraction to focus on some beauty in the present moment or on a positive situation that is equally true.

Focused Pleasure decreases stress because it creates a “time out” by generating a conscious separation between stressful events, allowing you periods of relaxation in order to re-energize. This could be as elaborate as taking a vacation once a year or as simple as taking some time out for fun and laughter. If you know that you are going to be entering into a high stress event it would behoove you to find an activity that makes you laugh because it will create extra serotonin which will decrease some of the stress that is in your system.

Resolving Conflict reduces the impact of stress and decreases stress in day to day living. While it might be more satisfying to win your point with a sledge hammer, developing listening skills and empathy will promote more harmony. When you are in a conflict, it is helpful to establish a common goal and acknowledge differences. I like to remind myself that the other person is “doing the best that he or she can in this situation” and that we both think that we are right.

It would be foolish to suggest that stress can be eliminated. Remember stress is part of the human condition and can actually be a good thing because it challenges you to look at life with a new perspective. But when stress is maladaptive, it creates undo anxiety and become habit forming. If this is the case, it is in your best interest to develop resilience¬. When stress appears, you want to decide whether you can use the energy it produces. If it is unproductive and causes anxiety, you will want to develop a preventative approach in order to achieve a greater sense of mastery and peace.

Reflection Questions:
1. Identify one thing that is causing you stress right now.
2. What can you do to manage it for today?

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances”. Philippians 4:11

Author's Bio: 

JoAnne is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, who believes in the connection of emotional health to body, mind and spirit. She has integrated clinical counseling with holistic techniques and has formalized her knowledge by creating the Journey Back to Self program which is available in a recorded CD. In addition, in order to further assist others, she writes self improvement tips that you can find on facebook or her website,