Let’s imagine that we all have a usual set point for stress. I like using the image of a cup of water for this. Each person’s set point for stress or the amount of water they have in their cup is different when we are at a low stress state and we all have different size cups (or capacities to handle stress) as well. At different times our stress or water level may fluctuate due to the things that are going on in our life at the time. With each new change, more water is being added to our cup. The washer machine breaks, our husband gets a promotion (and therefore has to work longer hours) and your mother in law is coming for a visit… go ahead and add more water to your cup. Soon your cup is overflowing (and not in a good way) as your ability to manage stress is overwhelmed and you are no longer functioning at your optimum level. Some people are stronger and can handle much more before they feel as though they have hit this point. Others feel the pressure building with every small thing.
No matter the size of your cup and your usual water level, it is important to find ways to lessen the amount of water in your cup on a regular basis. Many times you can’t keep water from being added to your cup but you can think outside of the box (or cup) on how to lower your water level so that you are better able to manage when water is added. Imagine holes being punched in the walls of your cup. These holes allow water to continually flow out even as new water is being added, keeping your water level low and making the chances that your cup will overflow much lower. So the question is what do you do to punch holes in your cup…
Only you can truly answer that question. The general answer, however, is anything you can do to relax, de-stress, and take care of yourself. For some people that is exercising as it boosts serotonin (a feel good chemical) in the brain, relaxes the body afterwards, and allows them quiet time to think. For others it is getting pampered by getting a pedicure or taking some time to relax on the couch and watch a movie or read a book. No matter what you do to relax, the important thing is to find something that works for you.
Now, when I was giving that talk I mentioned last week on this topic, some of the ladies were thinking that the more stress relief they engaged in the better. Unfortunately this is not always the case. There are some things that you might need to take into consideration. For instance, you still want to make sure that you are accomplishing what you need to and not taking time away from important activities in order to de-stress as this can increase your stress level in the long run. Trying to schedule and fit in too many activities can increase your stress. Also, think about ways to relax that will not add to your overall stress level. For instance, if low funds are one of your current stressors, it may not
be a good idea to go get costly massages weekly, no matter how relaxing they are. Also remember that some stress is a motivator for many people to accomplish what they need to do and the goal is not to eliminate stress completely. This is an unrealistic goal that will most likely backfire. The
important thing here is finding a balance.
Thank you for reading this week’s entry on dealing with life transitions. Next week I will continue on this topic by discussing three different perspectives you can use in order to handle life transitions.