August 21, 2015

Stress Is a Killer--or a Weight Gainer!

"Stress, it's a killer, sir." Source
I attended a stress management class recently. As the bat Bartok in the animated Anastasia says, "Stress, it's a killer, sir." Chronic stress hurts the body: increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, weakened immune system, depression, muscle and joint problems, weight gain, and more.

Stress Curve

The psychiatrist presented several ideas that revealed insight for me. One is the stress curve. The curve shows where a functional level is. Some stress is good, but not too much or too little (ironically). Some stress motivates us to solve our problems or hone coping skills. However, you can reach the burnout end of the curve and literally shut down. I hope to be at the low end of the optimum stress curb, though I sometimes feel at the overload phase. Burnout happens to me every few months (especially when I don't sleep enough).



She had us identify our stresses. I wrote them down and realized I have a lot on my plate. Well, I know there's a lot on my plate. Most people have a lot on my plate.

Here's what's on my plate:

  1. Abusers hurting beloved children.
  2. My body image and weight.
  3. Raising a family (this is good and bad stress).
  4. My aging parents struggling physically and emotionally.
  5. Feeling limited to help others in need or do all the ideas that come to mind.

Levels of Control

The group discussed different methods of stress relief. There are two ways to manage stress: problem-solving and coping skills. The type of stress management depends on the level of control we have over the situation. Some is in our direct control, under our influence, or a concern completely out of our control. 

Steven Covey model (from here)
Looking at my stresses only some of it is under my control or influence. Much of it is out of my hands. I focus on what I can do now. I work on my goals to go to sleep earlier, eat better, and exercise. I've taken steps to protect my children and report to proper authorities. I visit my parents and extend a helping hand when I am physically and emotionally able. That is in my direct control.

Within my circle of influence, I write and talk about protecting others, repenting, and coping strategies. I comfort who I can comfort. I keep my children alive and maybe they absorb other lessons along the way. I pray for myself, my family, my friends, my acquaintances, my enemies, and strangers. I pray my enemies repent!

Several of my stresses fall within the concern circle, which I have no control over. I have reported abusers to authorities, but these practiced and calm liars deceive family, friends, and religious leaders. Many reported crimes fall through the cracks of bureaucracy or have insufficient evidence to convict. Mortal life isn't fair, but God will make eternal life fair.

Stress Management Ideas

The psychiatrist and the group discussed ideas for stress relief. I liked some of the ideas and some of them I already do. Most were coping skills. I do these:

  • Work for adequate sleep
  • Work on physical, spiritual and emotional self-care
  • Counseling and proper bipolar medication
  • Listen to music and stretch
  • Recovery International techniques (when I remember)
The psychiatrist emphasized mindfulness, three good things activity, and gratitude. She encouraged focus on the positive for at least 15 seconds. It takes that long for the brain to register. Positive thoughts before bed promote better sleep and dreams.

"Children's Masks" by Lucy Toner
The three good things appealed to me. I told my husband three good things last night: married for 10 years (it was my anniversary), a comfortable bed for 10 years, and something forgotten. I expressed gratitude in my prayers too. The positive seeped into my dreams at 4 am. I envisioned when a friend "unfriended" me decades before Facebook. Her mother then showed me a scrapbook of the imaginary good times we had as friends. She had cared all along.

The three good things changed my dreams!

Here is what I will work on:
  • Expressing gratitude
  • Expressing three good things before bedtime
  • Savoring moments for 15 seconds
  • Stretching
  • Continuing my other coping skills
So tonight, I'll tell my husband three good things...well I should write it down.

How do you manage stress? How do you handle stresses outside of your control?