Altar Call -- Opelika-Auburn News
Walter Albritton
February 5, 2006

Seven secrets for managing daily stress

The word "stress" can have different meanings. Recently I had a "stress test" ordered by my physician. Bridges are built to withstand the stress of a prescribed amount of weight. Teachers may stress the importance of a midterm exam.

More commonly the word is used to describe the strain or tension of the home or the work place. Feeling drained and overworked, we may lament that "the stress of this job is killing me." In the heat of an argument at home, we may walk away with the complaint, "Iím tired of dealing with the stress of this relationship."

If we are to live well, we must learn to manage the stress that is common to daily living. Allow me to offer seven successful secrets for handling daily stress:

  1. Think positively about stress. It is not all bad. We need a certain amount of it. Few of us would ever get anything done without some stress. The presence of some stress in our lives makes us productive. We must endure the stress of work in order to avoid the stress of going hungry. Think of stress as you do salt and pepper, without a little of which food would be insipid. So life without stress would be bland and boring. The only people who are completely free of stress are stacked neatly in the cemetery. You are alive, and life is stressful. To embrace life we must learn to embrace stress as well.
  2. Take charge of your attitude. Learn to control the way you react to stressful situations. Tell yourself that you are the boss of your own mind; you alone can determine how you will react to whatever tension you are facing. Make up your mind that even if others around you fall to pieces, you will remain calm. So what if people do not behave as you think they should. You cannot control the behavior or attitudes of others. But you can control your own. And that is a big assignment! In fact, it is a lifelong challenge.
  3. Find something to laugh about no matter how tough things get. Remind yourself it could always be worse. Remember a time when it was and you got through it anyway. Laugh at yourself. If someone blunders and does something stupid, smile instead of getting angry. Recall how many stupid things you have done yourself. Think about how silly we all are to get bent out of shape over the silliest things. A hundred years from now, who will care? A little humor can often ease the tension and restore your sanity.
  4. Refuse to surrender to stress. Think of it as a monster, trying to reduce you to a bundle of nerves. Tell the Stress Monster to back off. It has been on your back before and you survived. You did it once; you can do it again, because you are a survivor, not a victim. So what if you are about to go over the edge. Walk away from it. Leave the struggle for a spell. You can have another go at it tomorrow. Every battle does not have to be won today. If you allow yourself to go to pieces, stress wins.
  5. Get some rest. It is amazing what a little rest will do for the human body and the mind. Eight hours of sleep will do wonders for your capacity to think clearly. Quit trying to "get everything done" today. Most of it can wait until tomorrow. Stop bragging about how little sleep you need at night. A good nightís rest may just be the best medicine you can take to cure the fever of stress.
  6. Step back from the scene of your stress and try to think objectively about your situation. Ask what you can do to help yourself. Try to pinpoint the major problem. Are you trying to do too much? Is your plate too full? Would the universe collapse if you eliminated a few nonessentials and simplified your life? Would your life be freer of tension if you were content with doing fewer things, and doing them well? Instead of expecting other people to make your life easier, start doing what you can to help yourself. And stop blaming other people for the tension in your life. Give them a break. They may be doing the best they can, given the fact that they must put up with you.
  7. Stop giving other people permission to make you angry or upset. Many of us allow ourselves to get stressed out by what other people say, or donít say, to us. No one can annoy or irritate you unless you give them permission to do so. Refuse to do it. Refuse to give other people such power over you. Stop allowing them to rattle your cage. Let them do or say what they will but keep your cool. Remain unruffled and thus in charge of your own disposition. Then, when you put your head on your pillow at night, you can sleep like a baby. You can fall asleep proud of yourself for remaining calm under the pressure that someone else tried to dump on you.

Stress can mangle our lives unless we learn how embrace it, and manage it, on a daily basis. By managing it we can make it work for us, thus allowing it to become more of a friend than a foe. The inward calmness we may gain from stress management is worth our best effort. + + + +