You don't want the Highest Score
Yesterday I took a life change index. Basically I measured my stress level by looking at major events that have happened in my life over the last 12 to 18 months. Stress is a feeling we experience when we perceive that the demands on us exceed our personal resources. On this particular index, numerical values are given to each life event. Check off the events and add up the values. If you score under 125 you have low stress, if between 125 and 250 you’re in the middle range, when above 250 stress is high and you should immediately and regularly reduce your stress. If your score is over 300, your chance of illness increases 80%.
My score — 546. F i v e h u n d r e d, f o r t y - s i x. Twenty other people were in the room taking this same index. The ones among them that were truly stressed-out were at 248 to 253. I should be dead! When I was in the center of all those life changing events, I found myself in emergency surgery -- an emergency appendectomy. Stress makes us sick. Think back on a stressful time in your life. When it was over, did you get sick? Let’s reduce the demands on us and increase our ability to cope, our health depends on it.
One of our best stress reducers comes in a two letter word — No. As we learn to say no, even to good things, we can decrease the demands on us. It becomes easier to say no when we understand what we are designed for — everything else is someone else’s yes. Another thing that reduces the demand on us is asking for help. It sounds so simple but seems like such a difficult step. When we’re overwhelmed by demands, it’s a perfect time to ask for help — from family, neighbors, professionals, friends, co-workers, anyone in a position to help. As we reduce the stress in our lives, it’s important to keep our focus on the main thing. Many times we end up consumed in low priority activities, having forgotten the most important thing. Whatever your number one thing is, go back to it and don’t sweat the small stuff.
No matter how good we are at reducing the demands on us, we’ll never be without stress. Improving our ability to cope with the demands or the emotional effects is a necessity. One of the best ways to cope with the demands of life is to schedule into our day a 30 minute recharge time. Give our bodies and minds a moment to relax and get away from it all — take a walk, soak in the tub, sit in the park, eat lunch with a friend, go for a drive, do yoga, meditate, use deep breathing exercises. In an attempt to manage our stress, it’s imperative that we add physical exercise to our routine. It moves our mental focus off of our stressors and provides us with additional energy. I know what you’re thinking, “I don’t have extra time to recharge and exercise. Remember, I’m already overwhelmed.” Recharge time and physical exercise will reduce our mental and emotional anxiety-stress-demands and free up some space resulting in a good return on our time-investment. In other words, we can’t afford not to.
What’s one thing you are willing to do this week to reduce your stress or increase your coping skills?