Altar Call -- Opelika-Auburn News
Walter Albritton
October 5, 2008

To live well we must learn to manage stress

Stress is not a bad word. Without stress life would be boring. Stress is actually the key to much of our success. The secret is to learn how to make stress work for us and not allow it to become destructive.

Obviously there are different kinds of stress. Several times I have had a "stress test" ordered by my physician. Such tests may be physical or chemical. The results help your doctor to decide if there are problems with your heart.

Bridges are built to withstand the stress of a prescribed amount of weight. Teachers may stress the importance of a midterm exam. These exams usually cause students to become stressful.

More commonly the word stress is used to describe the strain or tension of the home or the work place. Feeling drained and overworked, we may complain that "the stress of this job is killing me." In the heat of an argument at home, we may feel drained by the constant hassle with another person. This is bad stress that can wear you down.

If we are to live well we must learn to manage the stress of daily living. Once we accept stress as a necessary ingredient of life, we can learn ways to manage it. Here are a few suggestions:

Put a positive face on stress. It is not all bad. We need it. Few of us would ever get anything done without some stress. The presence of stress makes us productive.

We must endure the stress of work to avoid the stress of going hungry. Stress is like salt and pepper, without a little of which food would be insipid. Life without stress would be bland and boring.

The only people completely free of stress are stacked neatly in the cemetery. You are alive and life is stressful. To embrace life is to embrace stress as well.

Take control of your attitude. Discipline the way you react to stressful situations. You are the boss of your own mind; you alone can determine how you react to whatever tension you are facing. Make up your mind that even if others around you fall to pieces, you will remain calm.

So what if people do not behave as you think they should. You cannot control the behavior or attitudes of others. But you can control your own. And that is a big assignment! In fact, it is a lifelong challenge.

Find a way to laugh about something every day. Remind yourself it could be worse. Remember a time when it was and you got through it anyway. Laugh at yourself. When someone blunders and does something stupid, smile instead of getting angry. Recall how many stupid things you have done yourself.

Ponder how silly we are to get bent out of shape over insignificant things. A hundred years from now, who will care? A little humor can ease the tension and restore your sanity.

Never surrender to stress. It is a monster trying to reduce you to a bundle of nerves. Get the Stress Monster off your back. You did it once; you can do it again, because you are a survivor, not a victim. If you feel like you are about to go over the edge, walk away from it. Leave the struggle for a spell. You can have another go at it tomorrow. Every battle does not have to be won today. If you go to pieces, stress wins.

Take the time to get some rest. A little rest will do amazing things for the body and the mind. Eight hours of sleep will do wonders for your capacity to think clearly. Quit trying to "get everything done" today. Most of it can wait until tomorrow.

Stop bragging about how little sleep you need. A good nightís rest may be the best medicine you can take to cure the fever of stress.

Step back from your stress and think objectively about your situation. Ask what you can do to help yourself. Try to pinpoint the major problem. Are you trying to do too much? Is your plate too full? Would the universe collapse if you eliminated a few nonessentials and simplified your life? Would your life be freer of tension if you were content with doing fewer things, and doing them well?

Stop expecting other people to make your life easier; start doing what you can to help yourself. And stop blaming other people for the tension in your life. Give them a break. They may be doing the best they can, given the fact that they must put up with you.

Refuse to give other people permission to make you angry or upset. Many of us allow ourselves to get stressed out by what other people say, or donít say, to us. No one can annoy or irritate you unless you give them permission to do so. So do not do it. Stop giving other people such power over you. Stop allowing them to rattle your cage. Let them do or say what they will but keep your cool.

Remain unruffled and thus in charge of your own disposition. Then, when you put your head on your pillow at night, you can sleep like a baby. You can fall asleep proud of yourself for remaining calm under the pressure that someone else tried to dump on you.

Stress can mangle our lives unless we learn how manage it on a daily basis. By managing it we can make it work for us, allowing it to become more of a friend than a foe. The inward calmness you can gain from stress management is worth your best effort. + + +