How's the year going for you? As I speak to businesses, organizations, and school districts, attendees share their struggles with me on eating healthy, exercising, halting harmful habits, and other essential elements of health and happiness. One of the main complaints I continually hear:
"I'm stressed out!"
In January, I conducted a live LWA conference on the Texas A&M campus for over 200 AgriLife employees. To keep the wellness momentum going, several follow up webinars were requested on selected topics during the year. Here are some key points from last month's 50 minute webinar on Stifle Stress / Sever Suffering, viewed by several hundred Texas A&M AgriLife employees throughout the state.
We all face stressful events. Sometimes it's a major event such as a severe illness or death among our family or friends, loss of a job or other financial difficulties, substance abuse, or relationship turmoil. Even day-to-day events can stress us out such as deadlines, interruptions, traffic jams, juggling work and family, caring for handicapped children or elderly parents. The list goes on and on.
But why is STRESS such a universal problem? It's actually not that stress is something new to our world. Unfortunately, our culture has redefined "stress." That's the problem. Today, it seems like everyone has a stressful life. If our family, friends or co-workers don't do what we think they should, we get stressed. If we don't get what we want, we're stressed. Even joyous events such as weddings and holidays become stressful. It's CRAZY!
Why is reducing stress so important? Being continually STRESSED OUT is NOT good for us! Our emotional and our physical health are affected. It can lead to anxiety, depression, hopelessness, suicide, inability to cope with pain leading to increased use of narcotic medications, and increased susceptibility to heart disease and other health problems. Chronic stress is not a good set-up for a life of health and happiness.
But what is STRESS? The official definition is "mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances." What determines if something is "adverse or demanding?" WE DO! We want life to unfold in a certain way... OUR WAY. But then some one else changes the game plan! We expected that traffic would be moving smoothly down the interstate so we could get to our destination on time, but then we're caught in stop and go traffic because of construction! And why did they decide to block off that lane tonight!! We expected our boss/spouse/mentor to compliment us on the hard work we've been doing, but then nothing was said at all! Why do we get stressed out over these events? It's the way we perceived or scripted the situation! We want life to go OUR WAY!
None of us can argue with the fact that major life events can be stressful. The problem is when we don't resolve the situation. My Dad used to say, "Get over it!" That's my goal in life. Since I can't control most life events, my focus has to be on getting control of my reaction to unwanted life events - - ASAP.
What causes me to not get over stressful events? Negative Thinking. Our thoughts can be loving, giving, caring, peaceful, content, forgiving, and accepting of God's will OR angry, vengeful, fearful, demanding, controlling, unforgiving, jealous, and selfish.
I encourage everyone to look at things in their life that are causing stress. Write them down. Look at how you wanted things to be, and then assess how they really are. See life for what it is. I use to nag my husband about every little thing he did that I didn't want him to do. I have since drastically changed my thinking. I look for everything positive that he does. It's amazing how he became a different person once I changed my thinking. He didn't have to change. I needed my thinking to change!!
Let's say someone is doing something that you consider unhealthy or morally wrong. It could be illegal drug use, viewing pornography, or driving after excessive drinking. You name the situation. We cannot control the actions of other adults, not even adult children. We can only work on our own lives and our reaction to unwanted circumstances. If my happiness depends on everyone else doing things exactly as I want them to, I'm setting myself up for a heap of self-induced misery. Note: If you are in a dangerous situation with someone emotionally or physically abusive, you have to decide if you need to exit and seek help.
Question the negative thinking that is causing the situation to be stressful. Rather than have feelings of anger, frustration, resentment, worry, anxiety, insecurity, or depression, say to yourself: I could see PEACE instead of this. I could see LOVE instead of this. I could see FORGIVENESS instead of this. Decide what you have control over in your life and, importantly, what you don't. Being chronically stressed will not help the situation. Now when I see myself getting upset or stressed about something, an alarm goes off. I look at what I can control, and what I can't.
Here's the key for me. Whenever I find myself saying the words, "SHOULD," "OUGHT," "NEEDS TO," an alarm bell goes off in my head. Patsy, you are not seeing things realistically!
We can live in one of two worlds. One is full of contentment, joy, peace, and love. The other can be dominated by fear, anger, jealousy, disappointment, and numerous other negative states. Which world do you want to live in? It's up to you. I know which world I want to focus on. Let's dump stressful thoughts as soon as possible. That is Living WELL Aware!!
Stay tuned for lots of new information on the new and improved Living WELL Aware website. I'm working with an e-Learning expert to get more information on the site including video programs. This summer, the site is going to be really HOT!!
THANKS to Texas A&M AgriLife, HEB, Church Women of Temple, Killeen ISD, Lions Club, Rotary, Temple Daily Telegram, Jenks Public School in Tulsa, Austin Leading Ladies / SOS Leadership, Baylor Scott & White Nursing, Texas A&M College of Medicine, Golden Agers, and numerous other schools, businesses, and organizations that have allowed me to speak to their employees over the last several months. I'm dedicated to providing the best in wellness Information, Implementation, and Inspiration. I want to present ALL aspects of our physical, emotional, and spiritual health, not just healthy eating, exercise, and getting to a normal weight and cholesterol level. Your health is so much more than that. It's about Living WELL Aware!!
The best to you by Living WELL Aware!
Patricia J Sulak MD
Founder, Living WELL Aware LLC