Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Beating Stress

The best way to reduce stress is not to become stressed in the first place.

Since we live in a stressful world this is not an easy thing. But we can get into non-stressful habits.

Not being a meditative person by nature or inclination it has taken me some time to get into the habit of acting properly to the need of the moment, instead of reacting with elevated emotion. My first self-taught lesson was: if the driver who cuts me off was doing something so terribly wrong, why was I not getting his license plate number? It was because I was overreacting with anger and not acting with thought. It took some time, but I am more able to focus on the license plate (often very quickly receding into the distance). I'm even able to write (in my mind, of course) the note I would stick on his windshield -- without expletives! Reducing stress, then, is learning how to find the path through the minefield of life by thinking, not emoting. Besides, what he was doing might not have been so terrible, once examined in the cold light of reason.

Simple enough to say, you say. Not so simple to do.

Well, no. And yes.

You see, most of us have gotten into the habit of emoting first and asking questions later. Just as habits are made, they can be changed, replaced by different habits. To truly break a habit you have to replace it with a better habit, preferably one that has an immediate payoff. In the case of my offending driver situation above, it was the contentment of knowing I could leave a note on his window that at least had a chance of getting through to him, if I ever got the chance. Besides that, it gave me a chance to use some of my copy-writing skills as well. Also, by remembering his plate number I had a fighting chance of properly identifying the person's vehicle. This is multilevel pay-off (and better than punching the guy in the nose).

Stress is a reaction to the environment. We cannot always change our environment. We can often change our reaction habit by acting in a deliberate way in a constructive fashion whenever a stress-causing agent attacks us. It takes practice, but we have to catch ourselves when we react, stop, and act properly instead.

Stress is truly an attack, designed to upset us and to throw us off-balance.

We beat stress by not allowing stress to win.

Yes, You can!

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