Monday, May 8, 2017

Irrational Beliefs

All of us have irrational beliefs to some extent.  These belief systems are irrational not because they don’t make sense or are not “noble”, but because in reality they are many times not reasonable.  Unfortunately, irrational beliefs can cause more stress and pressure on you as you strive to defend them.  Here are a few of them:

1.You must have love and approval nearly all the time from people who are important to you.

2.You must be completely competent in all your endeavors, or you must have real expertise or talent in something important.

3.Life must go the way you want it to.  Things are awful when you don't get your first choices.

4.Other people should treat everyone fairly.  When people are unfair or unethical, they are horrible and rotten and are to be punished or avoided.

5.People and things should turn out better than they do turn out.  It's awful and terrible when quick solutions to life's hassles are not forthcoming.

6.Your past is a strong influence on your behavior and must continue to affect you and determine your behavior.
7.You can find happiness by inertia, inactivity, or passivity.

Why are these thoughts irrational?  After all, number two sounds like a lofty goal to have.  We all strive for perfection and believe we should be good at something.  Yet just because an idea sounds rational, doesn’t exactly make it so.  When we bind ourselves to an irrational belief in an “all or none” stance, we are apt to be “kicked off our pedestal” when the conditions change – and they will.

For instance, when we believe that everybody must like us all the time, we will find it hard to accept or tolerate someone not liking us.  Subsequently, we put pressure on ourselves to perform for them, and try to please them.  Consequently, we get stressed when we perceive that they don’t like us, or we feel their disapproval.

It is generally estimated that approximately 80% of the people you are going to meet in your lifetime are either not going to like you, or could care less about you.  That only leaves a group of about 20% that you can possibly gain friends, confidants, mentors, from.

If we insist that we want 100% approval from everyone we meet in life we create an expectation that is unrealistic.  It’s is “setup” and a sure formula for feeling bad, rejected and useless.

Other forms of negative stress have to do with the expectations we may place on ourselves.  Remember, there is a fine line between being “perfect” and just trying to get “better” at our jobs.  Perfection isn’t possible, not on this planet.  Yet we can live and learn.  We can become better at our jobs, and the other things we do in life, and we can try to get along with as many people as possible.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Dealing with the Stress of Change in our Lives

Facing change in life can be stressful.  We don't like change, primarily because it affects our normal balance of life.  In fact, the stress response is a really just a change of normal, or homeostasis. Whenever there is a change we have to react to it in order to cope with, adapt to it. 

However, the real stress, at least the negative stress involved, comes not from the change, but our resistance to it.  Remember, we don't like change, so when it comes, and we know it will, we react with words like, "Oh I can't deal with this now!"  Or, "Why is this happening to me?" And we actually try to fight it with negative coping techniques.  These are tools such as aggression (fight), regression (whine, cry, hold our breath, etc.).  We deny the change, such as the ole 'stick my fingers in my ears - this isn't happening, or even completely withdraw from the change (depression, escape), and in all these tools we do nothing except put off the inevitable.   The change is taking place, whether we want it or not.

However, change isn't a bad thing.  Change is happening all around us it's a part of being alive, so it's far better - and less stressful - to deal with it ACTIVELY.

This means to go with the flow of change.  Whether it's a job, our bodies, or whatever it may be.  Fighting the change only means PAIN.  

So it's always a matter of how we view the change.  What do we know if it's not for the best?  Got news for you, it usually is.  While not as clear as that right now, I know in my 60 years it all sort of works out for the best.  

When change happens we need to keep a monitor on our reaction to it.  Sometimes that's just telling ourselves, "Ok, this (what the change is), isn't what I want, but I believe it's happening to help me, make my life better, in the long run."   Then go about deciding how to deal with the change.  This should always lead to ACTION on our part to let the change take place.  

This is the "Walking the Path of Least Resistance" the world's wise men have spoken of through the years, and it's the key to remaining serene through any change we might experience. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Learn to Gear Down. Watch your Stress Cue

The diagram below resembles a speedometer.  

The range on the meter is from “Slow” to “Whoa!”
The “trick” here is to recognize your particular cue.  The cue is when you first realize that your body is beginning to “race”.   As you can see, there is no real problem in the “Slow” or “Go” mode.  In fact, it is good to be in the “Go” mode because that’s where we do our best work.
However, we have the tendency to “over-rev” our engines, and you can sense when this is taking place.
For instance, you may find it difficult to catch your breath.  You can feel your heart racing.  On the other hand, perhaps it’s a cognitive example, such as snapping at someone.  Or, it could be cursing under your breath.  Whatever it is, it’s your “cue” to “back off the accelerator”, and slow down. So as an example.
To determine your "stress cue", to tell yourself to slow down,  ask yourself:

I usually over-react when,

I know something is getting to me when,

Therefore my stress cue is, ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

By learning and practicing effective coping techniques, you can “de-accelerate” and bring yourself off the “red line”, and more stress free.

What is Anxiety?

In my book, Mac's Guide to Coping with Stress, Anxiety and Fear, I call anxiety fear's "evil twin". Fear and anxiety are emotions and come from our thinking. When we think fearful thoughts we have fear, same with anxiety. The problem is a lot of times the terms get confused. Fear is a natural response to a real threat. Such as being confronted by a thief. The threat is real, and we can see it. On the other hand anxiety is always based on "fear based thinking". For instance you're worried about an upcoming test, or a medical procedure, or some feeling of pending doom down the road. There is no real threat, only something in your mind. A "fantasy", based on negative thinking. How do you know that you won't pass the test? Or that the medical procedure shouldn't go as expected? You don't. If you studied for the test you should pass. If your doctor is competent why wouldn't the procedure go well? You can always check your anxiety by checking your thinking, and then seeing if your thoughts match up with reality.