Stress Management: An Act of Self-Love

Managing your stress is a form of love. It is taking a look at your life and deciding where changes could be made to help improve your sense of control over certain stressors in your life. Stress is not something tangible. It cannot be touched or held. However, it can originate from something tangible.

Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. Stress is everywhere. It comes in all shapes and sizes. It does not discriminate according to race, gender, or socioeconomic status. There is no escaping stress. However, we so often try to. The sooner we accept and adapt to the ubiquity of stress, the less suffering we will be inflicting on ourselves.

In today’s society, the habitual way of dealing with stress is to fight, escape, avoid, or reluctantly put up with it, while also trying to accomplish our daily goals. There is a good chance that we can survive this way. After all, many of us have survived doing it this way for some time. However, putting all of our mental and emotional energy into fighting, escaping, avoiding, and putting up with stress all comes at a very high price. 

“Putting up with” is not the same as effectively coping with a stressor. Unfortunately, however, some feel that it is. “Putting up with” stress is, in a sense, haphazardly trucking along throughout your day with no awareness of how to deal with it. It is basically white knuckling it for as long as your mind and body will allow you to. It’s like driving a car without ever getting a tune up or an oil change. At some point the car will eventually breakdown due to wear and tear — and the lack of love and care shown to it. This is not an effective way of coping with stress. 

“Sitting with it” is by far a much better strategy for stress management. Sitting with it” is a concept derived from the Acceptance and Commitment (ACT) model, created by Steven C. Hayes, PhD (1999). It is not an easy concept to accept or even adapt to. It requires willingness and effort on the part of the individual.

“Sitting with it” is often misunderstood to mean “think it over,” delay attending to or coping with a situation. However, this is not what is being suggested here. “Sitting with it” refers to not putting up a fight to escape, eliminate, avoid, or react to that which is causing you stress. The stressor could be anything tangible, such as a house, car, college finances, even people. It can also be intangible such like thoughts and emotions. Whether or not the stressor is tangible or intangible, adapting to the concept of “sitting with” enables you to develop healthy strategies to cope with stressors, which in the moment seems never-ending, however is eventually recognized as impermanent, thereby giving you the ability to “sit with.”

“Sitting with,” as a healthy coping strategy, is the most compassionate and loving thing you can do to manage your stress. It is the preventive care necessary to circumvent breakdown from mental and emotional wear and tear. It empowers you to do all that you can in terms of maintaining emotional balance. Coping strategies are certain practices you engage in to help manage your stress better. They are practices you can resort to, not only during times of distress, but daily. The following is a list of healthy practices that has been found effective in managing stress:

  • Figuring out the root of your stress (what is causing it): This can be accomplished by journaling. Out of reflection comes many answers.
  • Changing your perspective on a situation: Identifying whether your way of seeing the situation is an accurate depiction of what is really going on. Reframing how you see a situation can help improve your perception of reality.
  • Accepting events/situations out of your control: Recognizing what is within your control empowers you to manipulate the situation to fit your needs.
  • Being more assertive: Setting boundaries with yourself and others is one of the single most effective ways to reduce stress in your life.
  • Exercising or meditating more: Research shows that exercising and meditation reduces stress and promotes emotional health.
  • Engaging in more “me-time”: “Me-time” refers to solo activities that you find enjoyable. Going for a nature walk, going for a mani-pedi, reaching out to a friend, listening to music, taking a bath, gardening, spending time with a pet, and reading, are just a few examples.
  • Eating healthy: Eating right can only lead to feeling right. Ever notice how you feel after eating a load of carbs or junk food. That lethargic, sluggish feeling after ingesting unhealthy food can contribute to stress on the mind. Not to mention the stress it eventually puts on the body.

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