Stress Management

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SOURCES OF STRESS

1. Disasters

2. Losses (jobs, family members, house,

     lifestyle, freedom, opportunity,

     friendship, support).

3. Changes -

     The changes can be either a good thing

      or bad things.

New job / loss of job

Marriage / divorce

New baby / death of a loved one

4. Bad memories

5. Worrying about bad things that could happen

 

STRESS REACTIONS

1. Emotional turmoil, such as depression, rages, feeling empty, feeling overwhelmed.

2. Physical symptoms, such as sleep disturbances, appetite disturbances, pain symptoms, hair loss, rashes, dizziness, or numbness in parts of the body.

3. Reduced resistance to disease because the immune system is not working as well.

4. Loss of good judgment.

5. Poor work performance.

6. Becoming a "jerk" by arguing with people, being overly demanding and rude.

 

TO REGAIN EMOTIONAL STABILITY, A PERSON CAN DO THE FOLLOWING:

1. Seek help and support from others (family members, friends, and therapists).

2. Make sure you are not causing your own stresses by dwelling on bad memories and worrying about bad things that could happen.  Enough things happen in the course of the day.  You want to avoid "doing it to yourself".  In order to stop upsetting yourself further, use the thought stopping and breathing methods to reduce your level of stress.

 

THOUGHT STOPPING

Remember that you have control over your own thoughts.  If you are thinking negatively, either being angry at others for what they did to you, angry with yourself for what you did, or worrying, you are going to drive your stress level up.  When the stress level goes up, you might develop some unpleasant, stress related symptoms and drive yourself into depression.

The thought stopping method is very simple.  When you catch yourself thinking negative things, make yourself stop and make yourself think that would bring a smile to your face.  Such thoughts could be good things that happened to you in the past, such as happy fishing trips, good times with your family, friends or pets.  If good memories are painful because of loss of that person or pet, make some up about pretend people.  Make things up about future relationships with made up people, future great jobs, winning the lottery, or completely imaginary science fiction story.  Revenge fantasies, imagining blowing up someone into a million pieces because they did you wrong, may bring a smile to your face but does not count as a positive thought.  (The handout on Anger might have some tips for you.)

In the beginning, because you developed a habit of thinking negative things, your mind will automatically go back to negative thoughts after a few seconds on the positive ones.  Your job is to make your mind go back to the positive, each time it happens.  In the beginning, you might have to do it 20 times until you finally stay on the positive thought, fall asleep or find something else to do that distracts you.

As time goes on, and you have been using this method repeatedly for at least two weeks, you will find:

1. Negative thoughts do not come up in your mind as often

2. You do not have to play tug-of-war with your mind as long to stay on the positive thoughts.

3. Eventually you will get out of the habit of negative thinking altogether.

 

SLOW BREATHING

Remember that emotions change our breathing rate.  The good news is that you can change negative emotions by changing your breathing.  If you have some negative emotions, you can make them go away by making your breathing slow and even.

THE SECRET IS SLOW AND EVEN BREATHING

The ideal slow breathing rate is:

7 seconds in, slowly at an even rate.

Stop for 1 second.

7 seconds out, slowly at an even rate.

Test yourself against the clock.  How long does it take you to breathe in and out, if you try to do it slowly?

 

PRACTICING THE SLOW BREATHING

Breathing is like walking; it is an automatic function.  However, there was a time in your life when walking was not automatic and you had to give it a lot of conscious effort to be able to walk without falling down when someone spoke to you.  Learning slow breathing is like learning how to breathe all over again.  You will learn it, but it will take practice.  As you practice it often, you will learn that it will work better and quicker for you.  For example, if it takes you 20 minutes the first time you try it, to get really relaxed - after practicing for two weeks, twice a day, it will take you 2 minutes to get to the same level of relaxation.  If you keep relaxing past the 2 minutes, you will notice a deeper state of relaxation. Your body will become accustomed to it and know what to do.  I recommend that you practice it 3 times a day for 5 minutes at a time.  This is something you can do while driving, after you get the rhythm of it, because you do not need to close your eyes.

 

STRESSFUL SITUATIONS

If you find yourself in the middle of a stressful situation, angry exchanges or project going all wrong, check your breathing and slow it down.  You will notice the following results:

1. The other people won't be able to "push your buttons".

2. You will be able to think more clearly on how to deal with the situation.

3. You will feel more control of yourself in the situation.

 

LESS STRESS, BETTER MOOD, IMPROVED ABILITY TO SLEEP, AND IMPROVED SELF-CONTROL

If you practice the thought stopping and breathing techniques, you will notice a great improvement in the area of stress, anger, sleeping, ability to interact with other people, depression and self-control.

Rounded Rectangle: Clinical Psychologist                              Alexandra J. Rogers, Ph.D.