When it comes to stress….

When it comes to stress management, seeing things in perspective can help you get your ducks in a row. I still stumble, but it helps when I get a tip once in a while such as in reading Peter Bergman’s insightful article in a recent issue of the Harvard Business Review.
Origins of stress
Bergman points out that a lot of our stress comes from frustration, or this disconnect between expectation and result.  I’ll make up some of my own examples here:

1.  You’re driving through a residential neighborhood.  There are stop signs at the end of each block.  You’re behind this guy who doesn’t stop at any of them.  The speed limit, well- posted, says 25.  He’s going at least 40.  It gets to you: why is it some people think the law’s for other people?
2.  You thought you had a connection with someone, only to learn they’ve been putting you through a shedder when talking to others.
3.   You haven’t heard from your kids in ages. Not the first time.  Do they give a hoot at all?
4.   It’s the damned cell phone again. Expensive gadget at high monthly costs and you can’t get it to work just when you need it most.
5.   You’ve paid all this money for a good meal, only to find you’ve been short-changed on both the food and the service.  
As I write, I find I’m surprised how easily the examples come to my mind of daily frustration. Doubtless, you can add your own.  
Consequences of stress
Frustration mounts up and spills over, souring relationships and potentially impacting your health, both physical and mental:  think ulcers, gastritis, hypertension, depression, etc.  According to the American Psychological Association (2010), stress can have multiple effects on your body, mood, and behavior:
Body:  headache, muscle tension, upset stomach, insomnia
Mood:  anxiety, restlessness, loss of motivation, sadness
Behavior:  overeating/under eating, anger outbursts, drug or alcohol abuse, withdrawal
Oddly, the APA misses out on the worst behavioral response of all:  suicide
In getting a handle on things, it’s helpful to gain a sense of perspective.  Say something happens to you. When you can’t get out of your head, then all hell can break loose. Maybe you’ve got something like acid reflux, diabetes, or irritable bowel syndrome. None of them is fun, but resorting to what I call comparison helps put things in perspective.
Better the reflux than the way some people languish. Try on Lou Gehrig’s disease, MS, or cancer. Trade places with a paraplegic needing total care. In the news recently comes the story of the pretty Georgia girl recovering from flesh eating bacteria, resulting in multiple amputations. Haven’t seen such courage in a very long time.
All over the world are those who suffer grievously and unfairly from natural disasters, famine, disease, poverty. Think Africa.  Think Bangladesh. In our own blessed nation, there are many who’ve lost their jobs, homes, and health coverage.  
All too often we learn of Man’s cruelty to his fellows. Think of today’s Syria, of whole families executed, civilians shelled daily, deliberately.
When you lie in bed at night, thinking things are awful for you, try this tactic to get out from under: What’s the worst thing that could ever happen to me? Believe me, it will make your present anxieties seem small.
Here’s another way you might develop a sense of perspective:  what I call the camera technique.
Ok, the moment you sense stress coming on, imagine you’re outside your body, filming yourself. (In yoga, we call this kind of thing the Witness.) Fill the frame with yourself.
Now pull your camera back to fill the frame with people.
Now pull back again to include the landscape.
Then pull the camera back yet again to include the clouds.
Take the shot.
How do you find yourself in the picture now? Seeing yourself in the larger spectrum helps you downsize the seeming magnitude of your stress.  Here, you might look back at the photo that prefaces this entry to catch my meaning.
Set your lens on infinity, whether spatial or temporal. What am I in the backdrop of the stars?
Learning to cope, you’ll discover your stress tumors shrink.  
It’s then you ‘ll find freedom in an unfree world.

Author: RJ

Retired English prof (Ph. D., UNC), who likes to garden, blog, pursue languages (especially Spanish) and to share in serious discussion on vital issues such as global warming, the role of government, energy alternatives, etc. Am a vegan and, yes, a tree hugger enthusiastically. If you write me, I'll answer.

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