By Reydon Stanford
breaks my heart for society that so many people live under enormous amounts of stress. The emotional and mental pain
associated with stress can be unbearable, leaving people desperate to seek relief. Coffee. Energy Drinks. Cigarettes.
Tranquilizers. Alcohol. Comfort foods. The list goes on an on. There is hardly a limit on the things people
use in their desperate need to alleviate the horrible feelings of anxiety that come from enormous amounts of stress. My
personal belief is that most people do not want to "use" these sorts of stimulants for relief, but don't know what
else to do. Again, it is heartbreaking.
There are days when it seems like
we are on a super highway, where cars are zooming past us at breakneck speed, weaving in and out around us, and all we can
do is try to keep up, stay out of the way or get ran over.
It is said that
prolonged stress is the #1 killer of people. It weakens the immune system, raises blood-pressure to dangerous levels,
can affect our blood sugar, disrupt healthy sleep patterns and increase the probability of long-term and life-threatening
illnesses. In short, stress is a serial killer and all of society is it's victim.
"IN SHORT, STRESS IS A SERIAL KILLER
AND ALL OF SOCIETY IS IT'S VICTIM."
In an ABCNews.com article, it is reported
that 70% of Americans take prescription drugs and that the second most prescribed drugs are anti-depressants, meant to help
with symptoms of depression and anxiety. This is followed by pain-killers.
While I'm thankful for the science of medicine and for medications that can help people, these numbers also inform
us that stress is a major issue to the health of lives everywhere and that there should be more research in helping people
become less stressful, rather than simply coping with stress and easing it's symptoms. What if we taught people how
to examine the things that are making their lives so stressful and help them alleviate some of those pressures? What if we
learned how to find an 'Exit Ramp' off of that dangerous and busy mental highway and found a 'Rest Stop?'
THE PAIN OF STRESS
One thing about stress that is familiar
to all of us, is the mental and emotional pain that comes with it. It is painful to worry deeply about how to deal with
adverse situations in our lives and life has a way of throwing several at us at once. On any given day, we are forced
to deal with situations that arise from health issues, financial issues, relationship issues, work issues, and other life
issues. To say these events can leave us feeling overwhelmed seems to be an understatement. It can be extremely
painful, (emotionally and mentally), to know we are facing a number of obstacles that seem too great to handle. These
feelings can leave our minds spinning, racing and in turmoil. As these thoughts continue to increase, we go into mental
and emotional overload, and this quite often results in painful feelings of anger, fear, hopelessness and depression. It's
no wonder people seek relief from these feelings in whatever way they can. Sadly, responding to stress in negative ways
only increases the stress as it does not work to alleviate what is the root causes of the stressful factors.
INTERNAL & EXTERNAL STRESSORS
Things that cause
us stress are called 'Stressors.' Sometimes we are directly aware of the circumstances or situations that are causing
us stress...other times, we are unsure...we just know we feel stressed. In my opinion, there are two forms of stressors.
Those which originate from circumstances or situations in our lives and those that arise from our mental responses to
what we perceive to be wrong in our lives. Sometimes these stressors work together and that only doubles our discomfort.
Let me give you a common scenario. Let's say you have a major speech to give to your
Board of Directors at work. A lot is riding upon the success of this one speech. Externally, this speech is important
to the progress of the company and a lot of money is riding upon whether or not the information is useful and can be put into
action. Those are external stressors. Now, internally...there is a personal fear that your own job with the company
could be in jeopardy and that if you lose your job, it will horribly affect your family, your security, and your longterm
future. Therefore, you begin to worry about your presentation, your voice, your appearance, your intelligence, and so
forth. It's easy to begin to doubt yourself, doubt whether some on the Board of Directors even like you and if someone
will not only reject the content of the speech, but you as a person. Those are internal stressors. It can become
a frightful, living nightmare that both life and our emotions are placing upon us.
STRESS THAT COMES FROM EXPECTATION
Here's a question for you. If a 'phone alert' sounds on your cell phone, announcing
that you have a new text message...how hard is it for you to wait to read it? If you can't get to it right away...is
there a building tension arising in you to get to it more quickly? If you're like me, the answer is yes. Why?
Because we have an underlying knowledge that someone has spoken to us and is "expecting" a quick response.
Because we don't want to 'let them down,' we feel stressed to respond. In other words...our stress has come from
expectation, not only from others but ourselves as well.
As most of you
know...life itself places a great deal of expectation upon each of us. These expectations involve our future success
or whether or not we might be rejected, abandoned, or passed over.
the time we enter into Elementary School, we are expected to learn, be tested, perform well or...be failed. We are under
heavy expectation everyday, actually...from a variety of sources. From our career, to our relationships, to our health...there
are great expectations on us to perform, accomplish...or fail. Not only do we have these expectations from others, but
we also tend to put even greater expectations upon ourselves to perform, or we can view ourselves as a failure. How
could that not inspire pressure in the form of stress? While there is no way to get out from under all expectation,
I do believe there are ways to place these expectations into proper perspective and learn to balance them with healthy stress
relievers. Elimination of stress is impossible, due to life itself, but balance of stress certainly is achievable.
In a perfect world, we would all be taught the life skills
needed to attack the basic things that are expected from us. To get our work done efficiently and on time, to utilize
our time in more productive ways so these issues do not produce added stress. To attend to our relationships, quickly
resolving issues. To pay our bills on time, to attend to all of our duties efficiently and effectively. But...we
don't live in a perfect world.
There are times when we feel so overwhelmed
with even necessary expectations, that we procrastinate, make excuses, or do only what we can to get by. That is a familiar
human tendency at times.
I have learned that if I will attack the things
that are necessary expectations, getting them accomplished as quickly and efficiently as possible, I have instant relief from
some of those stressors. I'd love to say I do that all the time, but I'm human and sometimes find myself falling behind
and stressing to catch up. That too, is part of the human experience. Learning to make lists of things to do and
fulfilling that list goes a long way to helping our stress levels.
ADDRESSING UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
We'd all like to be Superman or Wonder
Woman...but the reality is, we can only accomplish so much as mere humans. As I said earlier, there are things we must
do...things that are expected of us in order to maintain a financial living and healthy relationships.
But sometimes there are other expectations that others...and we ourselves...place upon us that are unrealistic
and can cause enormous stress.
For example: I often hear in
marriage counseling, one of the two partners make this statement in regards to the condition of their marriage... "She,
(or He), just doesn't make me happy anymore." My response to that statement is to say, "It's not their job
to make you happy. Isn't that asking too much of someone? Aren't we all responsible mostly for our own happiness?"
They often look at me with shock.
While it's true that a relationship
is meant to provide us with some security, companionship, acceptance and love...all of which can make us feel happy...those
things cannot be found in other people alone. Personal happiness comes from a lot of different areas, including our
attitude, our emotional, mental, spiritual and physical health and our personal responsibility towards a life of peace, humor,
Quite simply, unrealistic expectations are asking someone
else or ourself to continually accomplish and perform things that we cannot sustain, nor were meant to.
Placing unrealistic expectations upon ourselves or others simply sets us up for repeated failure, heartbreak
and emotional and mental stress. These issues can leave us feeling abused, angry, displaced socially, ignored, fearful,
stupid, feed up and lost. These feelings can lead us to great sadness and despair.
Sometimes we simply need to take the time to address the unrealistic expectations and allow them to fly away
like a bird that has been caged too long. Letting go of these expectations can be a huge way to relieve unnecessary
stress and heartache. It's not easy, but it's required if we want to feel better.
Take the time to scan over your life for 'stress viruses' and then delete them from your mind's computer. Be
honest with yourself and ask which expectations upon you are stressing you out, and then ask if they are unrealistic. If
they are...get rid of them as best and as fast as you can.
THE LINK OF HEALTH AND STRESS
are mountains of literature from medical and psychiatric studies that prove the deadly link between chronic stress and poor
health and unhappiness. There are also major studies that prove the link between good physical health and it's power
to lessen the impact of stress on our lives.
A healthy diet, exercise, adequate
sleep, times of emotional and mental rest, fulfilling relationships and faith can go a long way in helping us better cope
with the stresses of life. While there is no way to totally eliminate the stresses of our lives, being in good physical,
emotional and spiritual health can provide us with dynamic tools of coping much easier with them.
Become inspired to address your stress and to feel better. Taking an honest look at those you can reduce
by becoming proactive rather than procrastinating...and eliminate those that are unnecessary and unfulfillling.
included a link to an excellent article on stress and stress relief. I encourage it's reading.