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Mental wellness

October 27, 2011

Stressed out? You don’t have to be

Stress is really a mind game. But there are ways to beat life’s worries and come out a winner.

Stressed out You dont have to be

I love quotes.

So, let’s start with a great line from self-help expert Dr. Wayne Dyer, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” This is the perfect phrase for today’s topic: Stress.

There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and the Maple Leafs missing the play-offs. But if we were to add a fourth, stress would be next in line.

Stress is one of those emotions that we spend endless hours coping with and even more time trying to conquer. In an era of trying to do more with less, juggling driving the kids, etc., life is coming at us at warp speed and carrying with it a suitcase full of angst, anxiety and apprehension.

It’s easy to stress. It’s a natural reaction triggered by uncertainty, fear and the unknown. The challenge has been, and always will be, how do we deal with it?

There are countless ways to combat stress. I’m sure each of you has your own preferred method depending on the type of stress you’re confronted with. For some, simple relaxation or meditation will take the edge off anxieties. For others, confiding in a friend or therapist may be the right course of action. Visualization, aromatherapy, acupuncture, exercise, journaling, or just enjoying a good laugh can be great ways to deal with your source of stress.

But what if instead of managing our stress, we learned to eliminate the triggers that cause it? Finding the root cause, as opposed to treating the symptom, can be a lot easier when you change the way you look at things.

There’s no shortage of research papers and stats on stress. For example, a University of Cincinnati study claims that 85% of what we stress about never happens. Another report estimates it’s as high as 92%. Regardless of the number, there’s no question there’s some merit to the message behind these stats.

Here’s what I believe:

60% of what we worry about never happens. An example of that might be losing your job and worrying that you won’t get another one – you will.

30% of what we worry about has already happened and there’s nothing you can do about it. This falls into the “just let it go” category.

10% of what we worry about is the real deal. Certainly health issues or situations where stress can’t be avoided (intense encounters) would fall under this umbrella.

The best way for you to test this theory is to write down all the things you’re worried about right now. Call it your “stress list.” It could be anything from how the boss is going to react to your presentation to what the results are going to be from your annual physical. List anything from trivial little worries to serious big issues.

In one column itemize the worry (e.g., “Boss will be upset with my presentation”). In a second column list what you believe the result might be (e.g., “Boss will give me the cold shoulder for weeks”) and in the third column under the heading “Reality,” list what actually happens.

This exercise may seem crazy, but if you track your stress list you’ll soon find out that much of what you stress about never happens. It may take up to six months before you have the answers, but trust me you will get answers and be pleasantly surprised by the results.

For the record, I’m not trying to minimize the 10% of serious stress related issues -- far from it. But I am suggesting you spend less energy worrying about the things you have no control over.

Remember, if you change the way you look at things, things you look at change.

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