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Managing Your Reaction To Stress

Originally posted: August 18, 2009 on TrishMcFarlane.com

 I accidently started watching the show ‘Obsessed’ this morning as I got ready for work. Well, listening to it is more accurate, but you get the idea. For those who have not seen it, it is a new show on A&E that chronicles the lives of people with severe anxiety disorders. While the people shown are extreme cases, the “average Joe” can learn something from watching.

What sticks with me the most is the way the therapists have the people confront the things that give them the most anxiety. It was interesting to watch. At first, the person would be very agitated and fearful. They would try harder and harder to just avoid confronting the fear. After a short time though, the person would admit that he (or she) actually felt lessened anxiety levels even though the stressor was still present.

This made me think that even though all of us do not have that level of anxiety around day-to-day activities, many of us do tend to have uncontrollable amounts of stress in our lives. I have been part of countless courses on identifying stress, managing stress, and getting rid of stress. I’m sure you have too. What I have not been part of is a course or discussion that tells you that stress is ok, and instead of trying to eliminate it, confront it. Really confront it.

It all goes back to how we each define stress. Back when I had my twins, they had to be in the NICU (neo-natal intensive care unit) for several weeks. That whole time period was a blur except for something that a nurse told me late one night. I had been upset because the nurses would not let me hold the babies together and I thought that was important. I wanted the twins to be together like they had been for the previous eight months. My babies’ nurse told me, “That will cause them stress. It’s not necessarily bad stress or good stress, just stress. They do not need it.” She turned out to be right. What I learned from that conversation was that I always interpreted the word stress in a negative way. I hadn’t realized that there were good kinds of stress.

That said, take a look at what is on your plate right now. Do you think you’re stressed? Do you have work issues? Issues with a spouse, a child, another relative? Are you facing an illness yourself? Maybe you’re planning your wedding or a big party. Or, are you expecting a baby? All these are stressors that cannot just be eliminated. We must face them and move on. I think that by confronting them head on, much like in the ‘Obsessed’ show, we may be able to manage our reaction to the stress better. It doesn’t go away, but the anxiety level lessens. So, the next time you are feeling stressed and it isn’t something that you can just get rid of, face it. Head on. Sometimes a change in your outlook is enough to pull you through and get you on to the next step of your day.

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