Any change we experience, whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual, has the potential to bring stress. Getting rid of stressful elements in our lives will bring change, so even as this may reduce stress in one or more areas, it can add stress in other. Often, as we adjust to a new norm, this stress reduces and eventually disappears, making it temporary. Sometimes, changes we thought would be helpful end up causing their own type of harm. How would someone who has decided to do whatever they possibly could to reduce stress go about creating a strategy that will set them up for success, not stress?
Make a decision. First, you have to decide you want to get rid of the stress. Even knowing that doing so will improve their life and health, many people have no real intention of getting rid of stress. It isn’t even “better the devil that you know,” either. They like their stress and all the pain that goes with it.
While treating soldiers during World War I, Dr. Edward Bach recognized what he termed secondary benefit from suffering. He noticed that some soldiers, out of a variety of emotional causes, and guilt in particular, manifested symptoms and ailments psychosomatically. If the soldier could say he was paralyzed even though he’d sustained no injury, he could push off the guilt of having survived, whole, while his buddies were either killed or maimed.
Whether it’s getting attention, getting sympathy, using the suffering to avoid dealing with something else entirely, or some other secondary benefit, some people would rather keep the status quo.
Evaluate. Take a long look at your life and acknowledge what’s working and what isn’t. If you want to write it down that’s cool. However, most people know without spending too many mental cycles on it, what is acting as a thorn in their side, what isn’t in their best interests, what should be changed, and what should be left alone.
Energy. The truth is, it takes energy to get rid of stress. Being in the right frame of mind and rested will increase your chances of success. However, there are options when you don’t have this choice either because you are very ill or you are completely beaten down.
First, small. Once you’ve got an idea of the problems in your life, the stressors, consider which ones will take the least effort and which will take the most. Be honest with yourself.
I was horribly addicted to Diet Coke. I had tried multiple times to quit but always ended up going back. I put off dealing with this until I had removed stress from other areas of my life and improved my health to the degree I would likely be successful. I then mapped out a strategy that included having sparkling water stocked in the fridge so I would be set up for success. I can happily say I nailed it this time. A key, I believe, was waiting to tackle this more difficult challenge until I was healthy enough to do so.
Tackle the easiest ones first. The easiest ones aren’t necessarily the smallest ones, nor are they always low hanging fruit. Be honest and only tackle stressors you are very certain you can tackle. You’ll increase your likelihood of success.
Adjustment period. As you get rid of stressors you will find that your life has changed. Your body will begin to heal and you’ll slowly start to feel better, to feel more energy. Let your body adjust to this new norm before moving on to the next stressor. If you do too much at once you may stress yourself so badly that you fall back into bad patterns just to stabilize. If you take it slowly, one or two stressors at a time, then you will help your body adjust and regain energy and health lost to those stressors.
Before I decided to eliminate Diet Coke, I needed to feel good enough that I didn’t feel I needed it. For me, this meant recovering from EMF Sensitivity. The steps I took over the previous four years, as I learned about this condition that I had, led me to a slow gradual recovery that has significantly accelerated in the last year. A big part of the reason is that I focused on strengthening my adrenals, which included reducing stress.
As I felt stronger and stronger, I was able to drop more stressors out of my life. Finally, I felt 85% recovered which enabled me to drop the Diet Coke. Now? I feel 95% normal.
Next, big. Everyone has stress in their lives. Some stressors are truly the elephant in the room. We know they are there. We know they are terrible. We know they are compromising our health and well-being. Yet, often, we do nothing. Why? Because there is a huge emotional investment, not to mention a potential energy drain in deciding to tackle the big stressors (i.e. leaving an abusive relationship, quitting a job we hate, going through the herculean task of moving to another city or state).
I myself have put off dealing with major stressors because I didn’t want to deal with it. In some cases, not dealing with it brought trauma and a host of other problems that made me regret blowing it off. Other times, waiting until I had the emotional and mental stamina to do so was absolutely the right thing to do. How do you decide? I don’t know if there is a hard and fast rule since experience is the best teacher. Would I do it differently knowing what I know now? Sure, but how would I know what I know now unless I actually went through it?
Big = BIG adjustment. Removing major stressors from your life may allow you to breathe and move on in your life but it will also leave major holes in your life. Holes where that stressor used to be. You will have more time than you used to because you aren’t wasting it being angry or sad or investing other emotions in the stressor. You will have more options in front of you because you are no longer doing mental and emotional maintenance in order to hang on to your stressor. You’re going to need to be prepared so you don’t go from the frying pan into the fire by filling that space with new terrible stressors or worse, refilling it with the old ones.
I once went back to a very toxic relationship because I wasn’t prepared for that BIG adjustment. I eventually left the relationship but not before a lot of damage had been done to me. On the bright side? It was a wonderful way to validate my initial suspicions that the guy was poison and I really shouldn’t date him. This helped in those early days of the BIG adjustment part deux.
Crutches. Sometimes we need to offset the stress of getting rid of stress. We need to pay attention to our body and soul while going through such dramatic changes, even when they are life improvements. We need to make judgment calls.
I knew that drinking Diet Coke wasn’t good for me but I knew I was way too stressed with everything else to tackle that at that point. It was the lesser of evils so I left it until I’d gained enough strength and health to deal with it.
Just like the devices that provide something for us to lean on while our bodies heal, stress crutches should be temporary. This may even mean putting them away when you are still a little store, but honestly need to start exercising those mental and emotional muscles to become stronger. The key is to make them temporary. Set a time frame if you have to, lest they become a habit and a way of life, which means the very thing that was meant to help you through for a short time becomes a yoke around your neck and a new stressor.
I once went through a very difficult period in my life. I had no intention of doing drugs. I didn’t want to start drinking heavily. I was already working out twice a day and working long hours in order to distract myself from things I couldn’t control. I wasn’t in a relationship with anyone. I had exhausted my stress coping options but it wasn’t enough. I needed more. I decided to smoke cigarettes as I decided they were the lesser of all evils. I set strict limits. I only smoked outside, never in my car, never at home. I told myself I would quit by Christmas (It was the second week of October).
I know not everyone would have chosen this path. I still remember a colleague looking at me like I was nuts when I joined the folks standing out behind the building at work. “What kind of an idiot would start smoking?”
Said the Jester to the Fool. After all, she was out there puffing away alongside the rest of us.
How did I do? I quit smoking after three weeks. The crutch had served its purpose and I was strong enough to rely on the long hours, the twice daily workouts, and writing fiction in my spare time. I looked to the future…a better future. It’s what gave me strength and kept me going.
It takes energy and effort to get rid of stress in your life. It would be wise to map out a strategy and be prepared for the ups and downs. Keep your eye on the goal…to be healthier, happier, and less stressed.
There will always be stress but when you are stronger and healthier you can better manage it so it doesn’t manage you.
Rewards. I have experienced first hand the rewards for this hard work. I feel healthier than I have in over twenty years. I literally feel younger. I feel stronger and best of all, I feel like myself again. I don’t feel like I’m living under a cloud.
When I found out I was EMF Sensitive I could have gone a different route than the one I did. I could have started popping pills that put me so into oblivion I didn’t feel the pain and suffering any longer. I could have skipped out on sharing my story with the world. I could have taken an easier way out than working for a low-cost holistic remedy that was accessible to everyone. I could have done without the disruption of moving and other extreme steps taken in the quest for renewed health and well-being. But that’s not me. I wanted it all. The happiness, the health, less stress.
The cost. Only you can decide what you are willing to do and to sacrifice in order to have good health. No one can walk that path for you. But personally, I think you’re worth the effort. The reward definitely suggests that the ends justify the means.