Stress is all around us and you cannot avoid it completely. Nature abhors vacuum. This could not be truer when it comes to stress. Just when you are finished fixing the roof, the fridge goes. If you are not worrying about money, it may be health or relationships or politics.
As an adult, it is not likely that you can escape dealing with stress. So, the best thing to do is not to wish stress away but to become better at handling stress. Jim Rohn once said “don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better” With practice you can get better at solving problems. It’s a skill that can be learned and mastered. If you want to lose weight and be healthy, you need a daily process of dealing with stress in your life.
How do you do this? I often tell my patient that when you are under stress you have two main responsibilities:
- Take care of the problem that is causing the stress.
- Take care of yourself. I dare say that this is essential for you to effectively deal with the problem. This is even more important when the source of the problem cannot be solved right away and may linger for a while. Unfortunately, when under stress the natural reaction of most people is to become so focused on dealing with the problem and they ignore themselves. This is when they stop exercising because of lack of time and start making poor food choices. It won’t take long before obesity sets in with its’ multiple relatives of chronic diseases.
Take care of the problem: When it comes to stress, it is helpful to remember that it is never the “thing” that occurred that is most important. It is rather the meaning we give to it which determines how we feel and react.
You can give any meaning to anything that is causing you stress.
Wayne Dyer said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” For example if you have a dinner date with your spouse and he shows up five minutes late. You can either ruin your date by gripping over the fact he was five minutes late or celebrate the fact that he hurried from work to make your date. It is the same event with two different interpretations which lead to totally different reactions. When it comes to dealing with stress erase it with my simple template that goes by the pneumonic “erase”
Easy does it: Next time you have a stressful encounter, tell yourself to take it easy. Take five seconds to take deep breaths and remember that the sky is not going to fall. This simple exercise will calm your mind down and give you the space to think creatively so you can deal with the stressor.
Rationally evaluate the event. I know we are emotional animals and just when you are under tremendous stress, it can be difficult to be rational. But you must look at what you are dealing with as a rational friend would. You don’t want to exaggerate the stress or minimize it. Just look at it for what it is. Most times you will be pleasantly surprised that the problem is not nearly as bad as it may at first appear.
Act. Take actions to deal with the problem. You cannot bury your head in the sand. You must assess your options and do what you can to deal with or at least to start the process of dealing with the stressor. This will empower you and help you marshal the resources that will ensure successful resolution of the problem
Evaluate your situation. You need to constantly evaluate what you are doing and how you feel about the stressor.
React. Based on your evaluation you can react according to deal with the stress.
Take care of yourself: Having a plan to take care of our emotional and psychological need is essential to effectively dealing with problems and leading a healthy life. Most people intuitively understand the need to take care of their bodies by exercising. But they do not have a comparable way of taking care of their minds daily. It is just as important to rejuvenate our minds as our bodies. I recommend for wellbeing the following:
- Practice deep breathing exercises daily
- Daily meditation. Both breathing exercises and meditation have been shown to reduce your stress hormones and may even affect how your genes respond to stress
- Create a rejuvenation list. This is a list of non-food related healthy activities that rejuvenate you. Some of my favorite rejuvenation activities include exercise, comedy, music and listening to motivational speeches. This list should be personal. It should include things that you enjoy and make you feel better. This should not include things that are bad for your health such as drinking or smoking.
- Keep a gratitude log. Focus on the good things in your life
- Keep things in perspective. Your situation may not be as bad as you think it is.
- Look for the positive in every situation and remember that your adversity can be your advantage
- Remember to feel blessed no matter what
Ife Ojugbeli, MD, MBA.