Do not “delete” your stressors

Want to get rid of all your stress? Of course you do! Well, just settle back into a comfy chair or sofa and close your eyes.

Now picture in your mind all the people and events that give you occasional stress and sometimes cause you to have a bad day. As you go along it’s OK to open your eyes to write them down on a piece of paper. When you’re done, check out your list and see who’s on it: Mom and dad, maybe? Spouse or partner? Kids? Siblings? Co-workers? Your boss? A BFF? The dog? Christmas? Anniversaries and birthdays? Computers? Smart phones? Vacations? Facebook? We bet if you took enough time your list would be quite long.

Next, rid yourself of all your stressful times, all those bad days, by imagining your life without any of those problem people and events in your life. The goal is to imagine a world where you avoid all your sources of stress. So, close your eyes and start designing your relaxing new world by deleting all those stresses.

“Wait a minute,” you protest, “you want me to get rid of my kids, my parents, even the dog? All those people I love? Give up my job and my friends? The dog? Are you kidding me? My dog? I’m going to end up with an empty world!”

Bingo! If you work really hard to avoid stress in your life, you will stop living! Stress is a vital part of being alive, and trying to eliminate it is a losing strategy. In fact, you’ll end up not only alone, but also lonely. You’ll suffer despair, helplessness, and hopelessness; your self-esteem and confidence will be in the toilet; your world will spin out of control, and the next stop on your life path will be…. Depression.

Stress, challenges, obstacles, hard work, frustration, anger, anxiety, and a host of other things you prefer to avoid must not be avoided. Those bothersome emotions are a part of you; they are not alien invaders. To try and avoid them will compromise your very being. So rather than avoid them, accept them! Confront them, meet them head on, deal with them. Emotions and stressors are a part of your life. Once you accept them you will be able to develop coping actions that take them into account.

Here’s a simple example. You have to give a presentation to other professionals in your field. You hate speaking in front of groups; you get anxious days in advance, and by the time of the event you feel like you’ll pass out. You desperately wish you could do something to get out of it. What can you do?

Rehearse the presentation until you’re sick of it. Do it in front of a couple of knowledgeable friends who can comment on clarity and organization. Is it thorough? Anything important left out? As close as possible to the actual presentation, do a rehearsal in the actual presentation area and make sure the equipment works and that you are totally familiar with it.

As the day approaches, don’t tell yourself, “I’m going to be cool as a cucumber.” Such talk is a deal-breaker. That is, the odds are you will not be “cool as a cucumber,” and when you experience the anxiety at the time of the event, you will be devasted. “I wasn’t supposed to feel this way,” you moan. So, don’t delude yourself. If you do, you will be unprepared for the inevitable.

What you have to do is remind yourself, “I’m going to be nervous; that’s who I am. But I’m prepared. I’ve practiced and I know this thing. When the anxiety hits, I’ll just continue right through it.” You’ll be much better off if you’re honest with yourself and don’t paint some rosy, hoped-for picture that may not materialize.

Short lesson here? Denial and avoidance are lousy coping strategies that will increase your stress in the long run. Instead of running away, design a plan of attack that allows you to engage in productive actions that make you feel more confident and empowered.

One thought on “Do not “delete” your stressors”

  1. A reader emailed me that she and her husband successfully eliminated a source of stress in their lives: They deleted Facebook! Her message makes a great point about a life stressor, and a qualification to this latest blog entry: If the stressor is something you have control over, you can indeed “delete” it. The problem is, of course, so many of our stressors are outside our circle of control, and then we need to go into attack mode. In any event, thanks to an alert and insightful reader in noting the importance of asking, “Is this something I can control?” when dealing with stressors. CB

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