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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

10 Things You Need to Know about Stress Management: Part III (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

     On the last post, the role of self-talk was extensively discussed.  Here, the remaining six strategies will be covered:

5.    The empowerment of Choice. Choice is the idea that we all have options in how we respond to situations. Every morning we wake up, we have a choice in how we will handle life. This is empowering. If you have ever heard your child say “I couldn’t help it.” or “I had no choice!” then this is not empowering. It puts you in a victim role. A person does not feel like he or she has control over one’s life. Over time, this is going to cause much distress and lead to somatic and mental health problems. 

It is true that often times in life we are confronted with situations that are beyond our control, but we can always choose our responses to those circumstances.  The choices may not be the ones we would prefer, but we do have them. For example, let’s say you are stuck in a traffic jam. Some of the choices you have in responding may be that you can honk your horn to let everyone know you are upset and all the while you may be cursing obscenities at nobody and at everybody.  OR you can choose to listen to the music on the radio and enjoy some “down” time.  The choice is ours to make.  Just like the choice will be our child’s to make in school, neighborhood, park, etc.  This way of thinking is called choice-response. It fosters responsibility and self-control, which are essential life skills. It is a healthy mindset to have in reducing distress.

6.    Reflect, not Ruminate. Reflection is a skill of asking self-evaluative questions in an effort to improve things. It is a great teaching and learning strategy that is often neglected.  Rumination, on the other hand, is a process where you repeatedly focus on the negative parts as a way of dealing with distress. This is unhealthy and perpetuates the vicious stress cycle. Some of the questions a parent may ask their child or ask themselves in reflection include: “What did I learn today? What could I have done differently? What can you do to accomplish this goal?” Reflection speaks to taking ownership of a situation or problem, which is a key in making change, such as reducing stress.

7.    Good relationships.  Social isolation is a risk factor for emotional problems such as depression. Surrounding yourself with positive, supportive people is a protective factor in reducing stress.  It is not about the quantity of friends you have rather the quality that makes the difference.  While good relationships mitigate distress, bad ones augment it.

8.    Be assertive. Are you a passive, aggressive, or assertive communicator? Assertive people speak up for their rights without hurting others. They are comfortable saying “No” when necessary.  Also, assertive people are good listeners and are very specific in communicating their needs and wants.  This kind of communicator will experience distress at a lower rate than passive or aggressive communicators.  One cautionary note: some cultures do not advocate assertive communication so taking one’s cultural background would be important, otherwise this may open doors to other stressful situations.

9.    Get organized. Clutter in the home, office, and car is stressful. De-cluttering is empowering and freeing.  The first time I came back from a visit to Australia really made an impact in terms of clutter. There, I noticed that people lived very simply and were happy.  This was also the first time I fully understood when my mother used to say “Simple living, high thinking” when growing up. After this visit, we got rid of “stuff” we collected over the years and boy was it ever freeing!  Although I am fairly an organized person to begin with; however, this de-cluttering amplified the empowerment and significantly reduced distress!

Additionally, an organizational skill is another life skill that will be necessary to function well in our home, job, school, relationships, etc. Early organizational skills we can teach our children include: having materials ready for school, list making, using calendars, categorizing toys, etc.  Go through your closets, pantries, papers, basically the stuff you do not need or use AND give them away, throw away, or donate. Remember that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” If you do this, please come back to this post and comment on what that experience was like!

10.       Self-care.  I am sure you know how important this last concept is. Self-care includes healthy habits and leisure activities. Some examples include: exercise, good nutrition, no smoking, alcohol, and drugs, yoga, meditation, reading, deep breathing, etc.  Picture the safety videos on an airplane where they emphasize that the parent wear the oxygen mask before applying it to the child. In other words, we have to first take care of ourselves before we can take care of others!

                                                      Happy De-stressing!!!!

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