Obstacles to Happiness - An Examination of Stress

Two weeks into the 30 Day Happy Challenge and my biggest issue has been unexpected stress popping up this week. Normally, I handle stress extremely well thanks to my mad organizational skills. I juggle a lot of obligations in my life but I stay on top of things by planning and finding ways to use my time as productively as possible.

But what happens when the unexpected arises - all at once?

It's quite ironic that I'm lecturing on the Chapter on Health and Stress this week in class. Most stress comes in the form of hassles - the daily annoyances of everyday life. Traffic, bills, time, fighting with spouses and kids ... the list goes on. The three main categories that hassles fall into are:

Pressure - demands or expectations on someone coming from the outside

Uncontrollably - the degree of control a person has over a situation

Frustration - being blocked from a goal or need

I can say with absolute certainty that the second one is the biggest stress trigger for me. The moment I feel like I cannot control my work, my home environment, or anything relating to my life I start to feel the anxiety/stress build up. Of course every aspect of my life this week has gone haywire in some way. Even my students Tuesday said I looked tired and stressed! In class we talk about this cognitive appraisal approach to stress. It's basically what most people do, consciously or not, when they start to feel stressed about a situation.

stress

 

The primary appraisal is asking yourself - is this situation threatening to my mental/emotional/physical well-being? If yes, then the secondary appraisal is asking yourself 'do I have the resources to handle it?' If you do, great! You use them. However, sometimes you don't have the resources you need and then you either have to remain stressed, find new resources or find a new way to deal. The issues I'm having in my life right now relate to things I have virtually no control over so I had to think of a way to respond to the stress differently. Given what the weather was like outside I chose to head to the park!2013-03-19 16.53.55 (2)

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This is a form of emotion-focused coping. I'm usually much more problem focused but sometimes you can't attack the problem head on and have to reevaluate how you are responding emotionally to the stress!

Dealing

Spending an hour by the water clearing my head definitely helped. While the issues are still there my attitude is improved so I can handle them better. 2013-03-19 16.44.46I shared this extremely useful article on my Facebook yesterday on 23 scientifically-backed ways to reduce stress right now. They are all emotion focused so I would suggest first trying to find a way to improve the actual problem. If that's not an option there are some wonderful stress reducing tips there! Someone left this incredible comment on my post about stress:

"A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”

When's the last time you put the glass down?

Don't forget to join my Round 3 DietBet that starts today! If your hoping to lose a few pounds this month - you may as well make money off it!