Stress: How Do You Handle It?

Sometimes it seems like we are more prepared to deal with the big issues that come up in life.  Sure, they are difficult and painful, but we know that how well we weather these catastrophes in our life whether they are a family loss, a natural disaster, or the loss of a job demonstrates how well we can recover.

Sometimes, it’s the little things that get to us easier than the big ones.  How many of us have found ourselves shouting at other drivers while commuting?  How many of us get impatient when our kids cannot stop dawdling despite everything we try?  Or the neighborhood dog that spends hours barking in the backyard?  How about a passive aggressive boss?  These little things are just as out of our control as life’s catastrophes but it is easy to overreact and let them get to us.  In other words, it may be that the little things stress us out more than the big ones.

So, what do we do about it?  Obviously, if we want to not feel as stressed, we need to change how we deal with the daily annoyances.  How can we strengthen our resilience and recover more effectively from life’s annoyances?

In this case, it means working on our ability to manage strong feelings, impulses or emotions.  It’s okay to feel anger when someone cuts you off on the highway, or your neighbor doesn’t consider how others might feel if they put their yappy dog outside at 6:30am on a Saturday.  Instead of automatically reacting to this and other similar situations if we learn how to respond in a deliberate manner is crucial to managing this kind of stress and in the long run can help our resiliency when responding to life’s crises.

So, how do we build our resilience?

  • Increase personal connections and your social network.  Having a large number of people in life to turn to can help relieve the pressure of both the big and little things in life.  Ask for and accept help.
  • Life isn’t a competition.  What works for one person may not work for you, and that’s okay.  Know yourself and know what you need and know that what you need may be different from your partner, or kids, or best friend.  You don’t have to spend your life attempting to outdo the world, because there will always be someone who can do something better than you.
  • Don’t play Chicken Little.  If you react to things like the end of the world is coming, the little things are going to feel bigger and more insurmountable.
  • Know and accept that change happens.  There are a lot of us that resist change.  The more we accept that change is a part of life and will happen, the easier it is to take it in stride when it comes our way.
  • Make realistic goals.  You don’t have to sit down and plan out every minute of your life, but having some realistic short and long term goals gives us a path to work towards.  Also, being flexible enough to reevaluate your goals on a regular basis (change happens), will increase resiliency.
  • Keep things in perspective.  The neighbor’s dog barking at 6:30am on a Saturday is annoying to be sure, but it isn’t a life altering circumstance.
  • Take care of yourself, emotionally, physically, spiritually.  What do you need to feel refreshed?  A solitary walk?  An evening with a good friend?  An hour of meditation?  Do you blow off steam by running?  Just some deep breathing exercises?  Don’t forget about yourself!  It’s easy to do so in our lives.

Finally, remember that you are a work in progress.  Remember that it’s okay to mess up.  It is how you pick yourself up and carry on is what matters.  Increasing your resiliency in life doesn’t mean you’re perfect, it’s that you respond and recover in a way that works for you.  Ask for help.  Something I’ve found is that most people love to help and all you need to do is ask.  By alleviating stress in one area it will be easier to respond and recover in others.

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