One of the most common stress management techniques I see out there today is based on avoidance…stay away from people, situations or thoughts that stress you out.
Is that really the best approach?
Sure, we all have little things that completely set us off.
For me, here are some common stress triggers:
1. Being controlled by someone else…this absolutely drives me off the deep end if I let it
2. Fluffy talk…people who talk to hear themselves rather than to have a conversation or saying anything intelligent
3. People who don't listen…frankly I would rather talk to a wall or my dog!
That's just a partial list, in actual fact there are many other things that set me off if I let them.
Is it feasible to think I should re-construct my life, my thoughts, my activities and my plans to avoid all of these things?
What GOOD will I be throwing out with the bad here?
What happens if, by chance, I am still faced with some of these things since we can't control every aspect of our lives?
Avoidance is not a primary stress management technique in my mind…perhaps as a temporary tactic to deal with chronic or a peak stress event sure, but to me a far better approach is to learn stress management techniques that help us deal with the stress response in our emotional and physical bodies.
What can we do?
1. Be Conscious And Change Our Response
Knowing what stress feels like to you, how your mind and body react mean you can detect it much earlier (as it builds) and offset it with substitute thoughts or behaviors. For example, if driving in busy traffic stresses you out, then replace all of those negative thoughts while you are sitting in traffic with the sound of ocean waves, the sound of your kids or friends talking on a recording, or focus on your surroundings until you reach your destination. We are in control of our response to every situation…instead of trying to avoid those situations, instead change the internal conversation in your head to manage stress better
2. Prepare & Be Ready For Stress
Have you ever noticed that when you are hungry, low on sleep, out of shape, tired or otherwise depressed that stress is more prevalent and more severe in your life? Just as we need to live healthy lives to stave off disease, by getting consistent sleep, feeding our bodies well, getting regular exercise and taking care of ourselves emotionally, we can dramatically reduce the amount of stress we experience in our lives
3. Learn & Grow
Instead of viewing stress as negative, debilitating and something to be avoided, you can change your perspective and view it as a necessary part of life that allows us to learn and grow. When we learn stress management in a given situation we continue to add value to those around us, build our own self confidence and help others avoid stress at the same time.
Above all else, know that stress management is a life-long journey, not a sprint. You can, however, make progress quickly and begin to reduce stress and its impacts on your life.