If you're under a lot of stress, it's having a negative impact on your mental and emotional health as well as your physical health. Just as you can change negative lifestyle habits, you can also change thinking patterns and behavior that make you more susceptible to being overloaded under stress. Stress (the negative kind) occurs as our reaction to events, not the events themselves. When we get stressed and overwhelmed, it's hard to see what steps you can take to alleviate the stress. In all probability, you can't control most of the events, but you might be able to do something about your approach to them.
People upon whom stress doesn't have a negative physical or emotional impact are called "stress-resistant," and the ability to live this way is sometimes referred to as "hardiness." Emulating their behavior will help you to become more stress-resistant yourself.
Stress-resistant individuals tend to have:
1. A "Type B" personality - easygoing, patient, relaxed, a low level of competitiveness.
2. A tendency to be proactive rather than passive.
3. A strong social support system.
4. A healthful lifestyle.
If you're a Type A personality, it may be difficult to understand how you can become more like a Type B personality. But some Type A people are made, not born. In other words, was your family very competitive when you were growing up? Was it ingrained in you that you must be the best, work the hardest and always succeed? If you're tired of pushing yourself relentlessly and the negative emotional and physical consequences that can result, you might want to see a therapist for help in reshaping your viewpoint about what success means, and how to let competitiveness go.
Not everything is out of your control, although it may seem that way sometimes. You can be proactive in addressing the stressors that are affecting you negatively. Identify the stressors in your life, and decide whether any of them can be eliminated. For those stressors that you might be able to eliminate, decide if they are making a large enough positive impact on your life to justify the stress.
Keep your ties to friends and family strong. Chances are that you're very busy, and that's contributing to your stress, but time spent with your support system is preventive medicine for your mental health.
Making changes to your nutrition and exercise regimen will bolster your immune system and make you more resistant to the negative effects of stress.
Try Cognitive Reframing
You've probably heard the saying, "It's all in how you look at it." Cognitive reframing is a process by which someone learns to recognize distorted, negative thoughts and replaces them with more positive ones. Learning how to use this process can be done on your own, or with the help of a therapist trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). If you're going to teach yourself, two websites that have very complete explanations of Cognitive Reframing and how to implement it are at Stanford Health Promotion Resource Center and Urban Monk .
Published On: March 18, 2010