One of the continuing issues I deal with is people struggling to cope with stress. The fact is stress is not in itself bad, and it can be a positive motivating force for good, depending on the level of stress and how well you cope with it. Everybody is different and therefore there is no universal “answer” but here are ten tips to help you cope:
- Accept responsibility! Most of the time the stress we are undergoing is a result of our own choices, so refuse the temptation to blame everybody and anybody else for it, and you will be in a better frame of mind to deal with it.
- Slow down! When you begin to feel stressed make a conscious effort to stop, take ten slow, deep breaths and then ask yourself “why?” When you calm down you might be able to recognise that the stress grew out of a fear that was not based on reality.
- Think Positive! Choose to change the tape in your head from the pessimistic you to the optimistic you. Remind yourself of your past victories, your strengths and the fact that others believe in you, sometimes I have to do it verbally for it to really sink in.
- Focus! I tend to get stressed if I am trying to do too many things at the one time. Today there is a trend away from multi-tasking, and a recognition that the a mere male like me will be more effective and efficient if I complete one job before going to the next.
- Balance! If you think that stress is getting to you, go back to the basics and ask yourself questions like: Am I eating a balanced diet? Have I got a good balance between physical and mental exercise? Have I balanced the demands of work and demands of family? Have I the right balance in terms of sleep?
- Journal! Often when I am stressed my mind feels like it is going to explode! One helpful response is to write it all down on paper, seeking to record all those mixed feelings and facts. This tends to force me to slow down, reducing my stress levels and often helping me to see new ways forward.
- Laugh! Learn to see the funny side of every situation, and don’t take yourself so seriously! A good laugh will also stimulate natural endorphins which will make you feel less stressed and more in control of your life.
- Enjoy the moment! When we are stressed we get life out of perspective. Choose NOT to focus on the failures of the past, or your fears for the future, put everything into doing your best in the NOW!
- Be grateful! We have all the necessities of life, we are rich by world standards, we have plenty to eat and drink, and the opportunity to be part of the Australian Defence Force is an added bonus, even if it is hard at times.
- Refuse the short cuts! Delayed gratification is a lost art, and sadly many of the people I have shared with recently try to cope with their stress by resorting to drugs and alcohol. The reality is that these short cuts will only make things worse. Accept the fact that to get the long term gain you may need to accept some short term pain!
Life will continue to have some stressors, hopefully you can apply some of these approaches to cope. All I can add is that sometimes what you need is a miracle, inner healing, a new beginning and if that is your need I can introduce you to God, who can do all that!
Chaplain Ian S Whitley