Psychology Today Magazine defines stress, as “the psychological perception of pressure.” Another definition is, “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”
Contrary to popular belief, stress can cause a person to act-out in ways they never would imagine. It can also invite behaviors that you’d never even associate with being stressed.
How does stress show up in our lives? Different folks have different experiences. But in my observation as a layperson, here are some of the ways I have seen stress show up in my life and in the lives of people around me:
- Drinking more than one normally does
- Drinking at all when one is in recovery
- Using drugs to relax and get through a day
- Excessive headaches
- Low energy
- Abnormal body functions, e.g., upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, nausea
- Tense muscles, unusual body aches
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
- Constant anxiety
- Consistently unable to sleep without sleep aids
- Frequent colds and infections
- Loss of sexual desire and/or an inability to perform
- Angry a lot, and taking it out on others
In this fast paced, ever-changing environment, there will always be some level of stress we must contend with, if we live, work, and function in the world with other people. Be that as it may, much of the stress we experience is self-imposed. This harsh truth will likely offend and be rejected by some. But for the person who really wants to stop the madness and reduce the level of stress in their life, they will acknowledge the part they play and change their behavior.
How to Relieve Stress. Better Choices.
Making a change in your lifestyle doesn’t have to involve big changes. Small modifications can make a difference. I know, because I have implemented a few small changes in my life, and it’s made a difference. The idea is to do something—consistently.
Here are a few things I have done over the last 38 years to consistently reduce the level of stress in my life. Again, I emphasize, I have taken small baby steps over a period of many, many, many years, but I have been willing to do something on a continuous basis.
- I stopped drinking and using drugs 38 years ago, and believe it or not, when my addiction lifted, so did some of my stress. It’s amazing how anxious I was always in need of the next drink or drug.
- I stopped smoking in 1982. Relieving myself of that 3-pack a day addiction reduced my stress level just a bit more.
- I stopped drinking coffee. Caffeine + stress = more stress.
- Two years ago, I stopped eating candy, cake, ice cream, pie and cookies. Not saying I will never have another scoop of ice cream, but since I reduced my sugar intake, I feel better.
- I exercise most days, unless I am sick or have an early flight. Running helps me reduce tension and allows me to keep my weight down, killing two birds with one stone. Yes, it takes me 30-40 minutes to get revved up enough to start working out. But I do it. That’s the key.
- I drink 3-4 quarts of water every day. Keeping myself hydrated and regular is essential.
- I stopped working in a law firm many years ago, which allowed me to create the life I wanted. The stress attached to working in a New York law firm, for me, was deadly. I’m surprised I didn’t start drinking again. Not!
- As a lawyer, I do not charge clients based on the billable hour. Instead, I have a flat rate for a variety of services.
- I get paid upfront. Not having to beg for the money I have earned has really reduced my stress.
- I practice saying and meaning “NO” means no! I have learned how to protect my boundaries, not just when it’s easy, but all the time.
- I stay connected to my girlfriends. I make the time to have lunch or breakfast with at least one galpal every week.
- I recognize that my life is about MY choices. Once stopped seeing my self as a victim of circumstances and started taking responsibility for my choices, my life changed.
None of these stress symptoms may apply to you, and perhaps none of the ways to reduce stress are appealing to you. However, if you are like me and just refuse to keep giving away your power, I invite you to try one of these suggestions on for size. One baby step, one small Esteemable action can create monumental freedom.
I’m Francine Ward sharing secrets to my success and happiness. Check out my Esteemable Acts Twitter page, Esteemable Acts Facebook Fan page, 60NOTDead Twitter page, or join one of my LinkedIn groups.