Have you ever had one of those weeks when it feels like all the possible challenges in our life colluded at a secret meeting to simultaneously ambush us, creating a perfect storm of chaos, overwhelm, exhaustion, and general stressed-outness?THE BOSS JUST SPRANG A NEW DEADLINE ON YOU FOR THE JOHNSON PROJECT! THE ROOFERS STILL HAVENT FIXED THAT LEAK IN THE BEDROOM!
LITTLE JOHNNYS SICK! LITTLE JANIE HAS A SOCCER TOURNAMENT ALL WEEKEND! THOSE CEUs WE WERE SUPPOSED TO FINISH LAST MONTH HAVE TO GET DOME TOMORROW!
AND OH YEA, ITS TAX SEASON!At times like this, its marathon just to get to the end of the day, only to wake up to a to-do list that somehow expanded over night.If youre at all like me, a stressful week looks something like this:While weve all slogged through stretches of life like this and survived to tell the tale, some of us live in a constant state of stress.
In fact, we may be so accustomed to a stressed-out lifestyle that like the proverbial fish in the water we dont even know its there anymore. Until we have a hernia, that is. Or our OCD flares up to unmanageable levels.
Or our spouse threatens divorce.At which point we either hit up the self-help section of Amazon or call our local therapists office looking for stress management techniques and coping strategies.We think to ourselves: If I could just learn to manage my stress better, I know I could save my marriage.
Or: If only I could get another half hour of sleep, Id be able to cope.As a therapist, I hear this a lot. Folks who are chronically stressed-out are looking for ways they can decrease how stressed they feel.
Makes sense.But heres the thing: Its not all in your head. When it comes to being consistently stressed-out, the problem isnt stress management, its stressor management.
When our life is full of stress-producing things, it doesnt matter how much mental judo and mindfulness we do, were eventually going to feel stressed-out. And the only long-term solution is to more effectively manage the stressors in our life. Distinguishing Stressors from StressThe crucial distinction is that stress and the feeling of being stressed-out are distinct from stressors.
Stress is a physical reaction to something dangerous or challenging: Muscles tense, pupils dilate, respiration and heart rate increase, etc.Stressed-out is a term weve invented to describe the combination of physical feelings and emotions that go along with a constantly elevated stress response: exhausted, frustrated, frantic, worried, anxious, on-edge, etc. A stressor is a thing that produces a stress response: A bear chasing you or being fired from your job.
The secret to having less stress in our lives is to stop trying to reduce our stress once its arrived, and instead, work creatively to reduce the quantity and quality of stressors in our lives in the first place.Suppose every time your father calls, he ends up berating you and making snide remarks about your pathetic job. A stress management approach would be to do deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation after each phone call.
While this might provide some short-term relief, your stress response is going to kick right back into high gear each and every time you hear your phone ring and see your dads name on the screen.The stressor management approach would be to vocalize how upsetting your fathers remarks are to him, set a clear boundary and consequence for what will happen if the behavior continues, and follow through on those consequences should they persist. For example, you might let him know that if he continues to be cruel on the phone, youll start screening his calls.
Another way to think about this stress/stressor distinction is that stress management techniques and coping skills treat the symptoms (stress) not the underlying disease (stressors). And theres only so many stress reduction Band-Aids we can apply before things get so painful (i. e.
we get so stressed-out) that we need to go in and do some surgery.Here Come the ButsI can here the objections now:But what if I cant change my stressors? My dads 87 years old and may die soon.
Itd be too cruel not to answer the phone when he calls. Sometimes we do face utterly unavoidable and unmanageable stressors in our lives: People get mugged; houses burn down; wars break out. When stressors are truly unavoidable and unmanageable, stress management is our best option.
But for many of us, most of the stressors in our life are not really that class of thing. Most of the stressors we face on a daily basislike a cruel family memberare at least somewhat avoidable or changeable. The problem is, making these changes requires some difficult tradeoffs, often in the form of negative emotions.
And in order to avoid these painful emotions, we fall back on stress management as a way to avoid the more difficult work of managing our lives and environment. For example, its likely that you would initially feel very guilty when you let your phone go to voicemail each time your berating dad called. Thoughts about how cruel a son/daughter you are would race through your mind leaving a trail of negative emotion in their wake.
And while these feelings can be very real and uncomfortable, theyre often:Unrealistic or inaccurate. Does being unwilling to tolerate verbal abuse mean were a bad son/daughter?Not nearly as intense as we imagine them to be.
We may feel an initial surge of guilt or remorse when we dont pick up the phone, but will it really be intolerable?Not as long-lasting as we worry they will be. Will we continue to feel as badly about setting a boundary on our dads abuse after the 20th time as we did the first time?
Unfortunately, we never get to learn the answers to these questions if every time were confronted with a major stressor we avoid managing it and instead try to manage our response to it. And if we never learn the actual answers to these questions, well tend to fill in our own answers from our imagination, usually in the form of the worst case scenario.We convince ourselves the the problem is within us, when in reality its very often out there in our environment.
But if we could learn to have a stronger tolerance to emotional discomfort, I think wed be surprised at how much change to our stressors and environment we can actually achieve. Which is why, if we find ourselves consistently stressed-out and overwhelmed, its important to take a good hard look at our stress and ask:Are more stress-reduction techniques really the answer, or is it possible that I need to make some serious and difficult changes in my life?4 Tips for Managing Stressors Rather Than StressIf the whole stress management approach hasnt been working for you, here are a few tips for getting started with the stressor management approach.
1. AWARENESSAs usual, the first step is awareness. If you take nothing else away from this article it should be to try and build a habit of distinguishing between stress (a feeling or physical response) and stressors (actual things that cause those feelings and responses).
After all, we cant very well start managing our stressors more effectively if were not aware of them, including how and where they tend show up in our lives.2. PRACTICE SAYING NO.
If we want to feel less stressed, we need to limit the number of stressors we let into our lives. But if were too afraid or uncomfortable to say no to people, were not going to be able to effectively limit our exposure to stressors. Most of us have a hard time saying no because were afraid of how well feel (guilty, ashamed) or how others will feel about us if we say no (angry, disappointed, upset).
So start small and look for little opportunities to practice saying no. Then whatch what really happens (teaser: its not as bad as youre imagining). Once we start accumulating real evidence that the outcomes of saying no to small things arent terrible, well be more confident saying no to bigger things in the future.
3. EMBRACE THE FOMOMany of us maintain overly-busy and jam-packed lifestyles which dont allow for sufficient relaxation and rest. One big reason why is FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
We say yes to everything because we imagine all the great things well (hypothetically) be missing out on and then regret if we decline an opportunity. The key is to come to terms with the inevitability that we cant do and experience everything. And that if we try, massive levels of stress are going to be a likely side effect.
4. PRACTICE SAYING I WOULD LIKEAs important as it is to say no in order to limit the amount and quality of stressors in our life, equally important is the ability to confidently and directly ask for what we want.Too many stressors at the office?
Ask for permission to work from home once a week.Exhausted taking care of the kids all day? Ask for a part-time housekeeper or that your partner take the kids a couple times a week in the evening so you can go to the gym or meet a friend for a drink.
Many of us have a hard time asking for what we want because (surprise!) were afraid of how well feel or how well make someone else feel as a result. So, as usual, start small and see how it goes.
Some short-term emotional discomfort is the price we have to be willing to pay if we want less stress in the long-term. Wrapping UpThe big idea is that many of us spend too much time and energy trying to manage our stress when the more effective strategy would be to manage our stressors the things that produce stress in the first place. The reason we have so much trouble doing this is because it involves a lot of temporary emotional discomfort: Saying no to people is scary; setting boundaries on bad behavior is uncomfortable.
But if were unwilling to experience some short-term emotional discomfort, were likely to remain stuck with a life thats full of stressors and consequently, full of stress. This story is published in The Startup, Mediums largest entrepreneurship publication followed by 303,461 people.Subscribe to receive our top stories here RELATED QUESTION I didn't get Google Glass Explorer Edition.
Is trying to learn Glass dev without the hardware a futile effort? No, you can still learn the fundamentals of Glass development without the hardware. There are three main approaches for accomplishing this: 1) Visit the Mirror API documentation, get into the playground, and start hashing up some code.
Download the PHP, Java, and Python library, whichever you're most comfortable with. Familiarize yourself with the jargon and converntions (timeline, bundles, menus, etc). Read the support documentation (second link below) to see how the Glass hardware actually functions.
Build some apps to this specification. Soon enough, you will find a friend with hardware to t