Managing Stress (Part 1)

Stress is something that affects every human being on the planet. It is a part of life. It is normal. We have inbuilt mechanisms to handle it, and are built to deal with it. At some point due to circumstances beyond our control, and sometimes due to the effects of our own decisions, or the decisions of others, stress enters our lives.

When stress stays for too long, when stress isn’t a passing through, an event, a short season. Stress becomes a problem. And when stress becomes a lifestyle, it is not a badge of honour for our importance on the planet. It becomes a destructive force.

Stress can be defined as, “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances: Something that causes a state of strain or tension.” (referenced Oxford dictionary). When people feel under undue pressure or stress, stress hormones are released to address the perceived ‘threat’, so that we can go into fight or flight mode. Energy, hormones and power are released to either fight the threat, or run away from it. Which is a great system to use occasionally. It’s meant to be used in an emergency. It’s not a permanent state to be in!

For many of us, our lifestyles, jobs, relationships and patterns keep drawing upon the emergency system repetitively. And if that continues, it can cause physical, mental and emotional problems and even breakdown. Many hundreds of books have been written about, and studies done, to address this epidemic in our Western culture.

STRESS can be managed and overcome! No matter where it came from, or why. It will surely come, but we can have the understanding to put things in place so that when it does, we respond in ways that are going to bring health and wholeness and a good outcome! The stress itself can be used to be a tool that makes us stronger, wiser, more adaptable, and secure and equipped for the seasons of life ahead.

So how do we do that? First we have to acknowledge that we are stressed! Face it. Everyone around you knows you are! For some of us that’s hard if our belief system is that we are superman or woman, we don’t acknowledge weakness, or the culture and environments we are in or have grown up with, punishes or ridicules any perceived, ‘weakness’. Intentionally building and having safe people in our lives that we can be real with about how we are truly doing, really helps us be able to do this.

Everyone gets stressed at some point in their lives for some reason or another. Some people have extended periods of stress. There is no shame in being stressed, overwhelmed, pressured or anxious. Who put out the myth that we could or should have everything under control, be ‘up together’, be perfect in every arena, have no struggles, anyway?

Secondly, we need to correctly assess where the stress is coming from. This takes ruthless honestly with ourselves, and possibly with good trained professionals or trusted friends, who can give an objective and compassionate view of things, and be a support whilst that’s looked at. Sometimes it’s a simple thing like you constantly overbook the diary and a few simple discipline measures or time management strategies can be implemented. You may not be suited or adequately skilled for the job you do. Can you upgrade your training, change career goals or direction? Other times the stress is more complex and the solutions not as visible. But don’t worry wherever they are buried, they are there for you to find!

Is the stress physical? Are we physically trying to do and accomplish too much? Do we need to see a doctor to see if there’s an underlying illness causing the stress response in our bodies? Are our hormones up the spout? Is it psychological? Are we in an untenable relational situation? Are we under attack, being undermined constantly or dealing with abuse? Are we stressed because of the way we are seeing and handling a situation? Does our mind set need changing or upgrading? Is it emotional? Is there an emotional trigger that causes us anxiety and stress. Is it all of them? Is it circumstantial? Any trauma will cause stress, an accident, divorce a death in the family.

The good news is that our bodies, our minds, our emotions have self-built in mechanisms to manage stress if its occasional and not a permanent fixture of our lives. We are wired to handle it!

If, for whatever reason we find ourselves in a long period of stress, we need to realise that they’ll be a journey out, which will mean gathering the right information and knowledge that will work for us. We have access to more knowledge and information than any other generation alive! The challenge with that is that we need the right information, at the right time, that is right for us, implemented in the right way. This is where good professional Life Coaching really comes in, to help discern what that is, and what might be workable based on our individual personality, circumstances and needs. Every person is unique. Generalisations whilst giving us indicators do not always lead us to effective implementable problem solving.
Prolonged stress will always demand that we embrace the power of choice. In every situation we have choices! It may be that our choice is to see a situation differently, learn different ways of working with a particular personality, or changing a spending habit. Choice is fundamental to freedom and to love. It empowers us, makes us able to move forward when we feel powerless due to the sometimes, disabling nature of prolonged stress and fear. Stress makes us feel stuck, unable to move, change , adapt. But human beings are remarkable at finding ways through the toughest of situations.

If you can’t see a way out of a life of stress, someone else will have walked that road before and have some wisdom. Great Life Coaches, therapists, medical professionals, wise friends, church leaders should help you think outside of the box that has framed you and kept you stuck in stress. Professional good Life Coaching will help you put a step by step plan in place to help you come back into peace, freedom and wholeness, and coming our wiser and stronger than before!

Lastly, stress requires wise decisions and actions. Wishing stress away is naive and foolish. Sometimes a whole lot of decisions brought us into this place of stress. That’s ok. We can learn from them, not to repeat those mistakes again. But more importantly we can know that equally a load of decisions and accompanying action can lead us right back out again!

Putting in place supports and techniques that will bring solutions is essential. Don’t ignore stress, it rarely goes away by itself. Rise above the shame or embarrassment. It’s just human to experience stress. Everyone does. You are not alone! And there is a way out. You don’t have to be perfect or have it all together! None of us are and none of us do!

If you could avoid an illness, depression, a season out of work, a strain upon your relationships, wouldn’t you want to? I write this wishing I’d had the input and information I do now. I would have avoided all of the above more easily.

Do have the courage to face it, assess it objectively and with help if you need it. Identify the underlying causes of it, and realise you have choices. You do not have to stay in stress! It will come but you don’t have to stay there. Do find the right knowledge, support, information for you. Do take action and make step by step decisions to come out of your place of stress.

If you are not stressed today, thank God for that! Genuinely, thank Him! And invest in compassion for others who are struggling. Invest in good safe healthy relationships, healthy practises, good decisions to build a foundation to sustain you for the time when it does. And when it does know there’s always a way out and through! You are not alone! It’s a part of the human condition. And you can come out stronger, wiser, more fulfilled and living a life that is great, in the end!

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