Raise your hand if you have stress in your life. If you haven’t raised your hand by now, it must be because you feel too stressed out to do even that. Maybe you raised both hands. If so, you already understand part of the program — you laughed (at least inside) when you did it. If you’re so stressed that you’re curled up in the fetal position under your chair and sucking your thumb, I won’t ask you to raise your hand — just wiggle a foot so I know you’re paying attention.
Stress is actually something that we need in our lives. Most of us need the stress of a deadline to get a project done. Others need it to get a project started. The stress of paying my bills makes me get out of bed and go to work every day. If I didn’t have bills (or something else to motivate me), I could sleep till the crack of noon and wake up just in time to take my afternoon nap. We all need “productive stress” to generate results. As a side benefit, we gain a sense of accomplishment, fulfillment and purpose.
So stress is not really the problem. What you and I don’t need is distress. That’s the negative side of stress. Sometimes distress comes from outside sources in our environment: where we work or live, the people we deal with, the situations of life. But sometimes, distress comes from inside sources that are much more under our own control.
Have you ever noticed that the trees left standing after a hurricane are the ones that are able to bend with the wind? Rigid trees snap like twigs. Your sense of humor can help you bend with the gale of stress you face every day.
Do you talk to yourself? A little voice inside your head just answered, “Yeah, I talk to myself all the time” or “No, I don’t talk to myself.” And if the voice told you no, it probably followed with, “You gotta be nuts to talk to yourself! Maybe others do, but not me.”
As humans, talking to ourselves is how we process information and make decisions. Psychiatrists say if we don’t talk to ourselves, we need to be talking to them! We cause stress sometimes by what we say when we talk to ourselves. Negative self-talk is harmful when we tell ourselves something we would resent someone else saying to us.
I am not a psychiatrist — I don’t even play one on TV. But here is a sound piece of mental health advice: STOP DOING THAT! Stop.
Here’s a story:
A fellow is driving home one night. He coasts up to a stop sign, looks around and doesn’t see any traffic coming. So he slows down a bit, but he still runs the stop sign. A police officer is waiting around the corner and pulls him over.
The officer asks, “Do you know why I stopped you?”
The guy says, “No, I don’t.”
“Well, you ran that stop sign back there.”
“Oh, no, didn’t you see? I slowed down.”
“Well, you’re supposed to stop.”
“I slowed down. It’s the same thing.”
“Look, the law says you have to come to a complete stop.”
“GIVE ME A BREAK! I slowed down. We both know it’s the same thing!”
At that point, the cop whips out his nightstick and starts whacking the guy over the head.
The guy yells, “Owwwww! That hurts!”
And the cop replies, “I know. Now, do you want me to stop…or slow down?”
Quit beating yourself up. Stop it!