Self Improvement — 29 October 2003
How to cope with s-s-s-stress

How to cope with s-s-s-stress

Feeling stressed is a common experience in life. It is the reaction to excessive demands of time, energy, intellect, emotions, attention or even love, placed upon us. We may feel physically or emotionally drained
while needing to keep going faster and harder. Prolonged periods of
stress deplete us and may be hazardous to our health.

Metals react to stress such as heat, use, or exposure to elements, by deteriorating and eventually wearing out. Even the strongest piece of iron will fracture and break in reaction to repeated bending. Similarly, human beings subject to ongoing stress are likely to deteriorate physically and emotionally to the point of ineptness.

Yet, some stress is helpful in motivating people to act, create and complete tasks in a timely and productive manner.

So how much is too much stress for you? While life’s demands burden people to differing degrees, each individual can assess his own level of stress and the specific pressures he finds intolerable.

For example, when your department is short staffed, you may feel great stress by the temporary demand of performing your job as well as parts of other people’s tasks. Or you may be a caregiver to an ailing partner or parent. It requires you to set your personal priorities on hold for the sake of nurturing a loved one. Even if you are an individual for whom nurturing feels more rewarding than taxing, continuous deferring of
your needs in favor of others, takes it’s toll.

Stress topples the balance in your life between work, play, intimacy, recreation and time alone. When a single focus approach is expected of you to the exclusion of all others, you are likely to become excessively fatigued. The single-minded concentration in one area tires your mind and hinders serenity.

Most commonly, stressed people become irritable, short tempered, inattentive to loved ones and even critical. The may feel guilty about abandoning their families but consumed by their other responsibilities.

If you are blessed with a supportive and understanding partner, use your
mate as a sounding board for release of tensions, but be cautious not to
take your frustrations out on your partner.

Talking has been found to be an excellent form of pressure relief, even if the objective situation is unchanged. Venting anger, fear, feelings of overwhelm and frustration frees you to recharge your energy and continue to meet your challenges. A supportive partner can be a good listener, validating your hardship, providing messages of admiration and
affection, and problem solving only if asked to do so.

We have all heard individuals crediting their partners for the support they received during stressful personal times. “I could not have done it without your support” are often true and bonding words. Intimacy is enhanced when partners are there for each other at times of need. An emotionally available mate can invigorate a tiring partner providing strength, encouragement, practical help and love.

Remind yourself that the stressful situation is temporary. Most people can handle almost anything ? as long as they know that it is not permanent. Ask your partner to assist you by being patient while you get
through this hardship. Be appreciative of the help you receive.

If your situation is stressful and not temporary, you must explore the options you have in changing it to a short-term state. No stress in life merits losing your health or sanity. People often feel helpless about changing their stressful environment. It requires a shift in thinking and a creative problem solving with your partner to restore the needed balance in your life.

Some stress reduction techniques are available to help you while you are in the midst of pressuring events.

  • To regain composure, when feeling overwhelmed, a simple breathing exercise works well. Inhale to the count of four, hold your breath to
    the count of four and exhale to the count of eight, visualize pushing the air out of your belly button. Repeat this exercise three times, it
    takes under two minutes and is very calming. You may repeat this as many times a day as needed.
  • Take an imaginary vacation by closing your eyes and visualizing a serene place of great comfort to you. It may be an actual place you have
    visited or a created image. It allows the body to restore some peacefulness.
  • Solicit or tell a joke to an associate. Laughing has been shown to relieve tensions and invigorate creativity.
  • Engage in positive self talk. Rather than complaining to yourself about how stressed and overwhelmed you feel- tell yourself how well you are coping with the excessive demands.
  • Try to get a good night sleep, at least every third night. Research indicates that one sleepless night may not cause reduced performance, but after two nights of sleep deprivation, major performance deficits are recorded.
  • Tell your partner that though you are unable to do your share at home or be attentive to her, you do love her just as much and you appreciate her patience. It is likely to reduce her stress and allow her to be more open hearted toward you.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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