Take a moment to reflect on the following questions:
– Do you ever find yourself struggling with making decisions? Not only the major ones but the little ones as well?
– Are fleeting thoughts becoming more common, thoughts such as, Oh, I’d like to get away from all of this. I want to get away from my kids, my husband, my job-everything. I need a break!
– Do you find yourself increasing your use of stimulants to keep you going-alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, Cokes, tranquilizers or diet pills? Do you find your mind taking a vacation on you, finding your thoughts trailing off when you are speaking to someone or writing?
– Do you worry excessively? You know what worry is. You go over and over a real or imagined situation in your mind. You begin to take on the worries of others as well as your own.
– Do you find yourself snapping and exploding at others because your anger is riding just under the surface, and it doesn’t take much for it to explode?
– Are you finding it difficult to trust others? Is your suspicion index starting to climb even with close friends and family members?
– Are you beginning to forget appointments, dates and deadlines? Do you find yourself brooding over events and issues, even little ones?
– Are people beginning to say that you just don’t seem quite yourself anymore?
All of the items above are symptoms of stress overload. “Stress” is a simple, common word. It has been used as a catchall to explain a physical and emotional response when no other explanation can be found. But stress is real, and it’s directly correlated to anger. Stress can generate anger, and anger can generate stress. In our national survey, stress was identified as the second leading factor that increases women’s vulnerability to anger.
What exactly is stress? It is any situation or condition that chronically irritates or upsets you. Because of it you are thrown out of balance physically and psychologically. Under stress you’re the victim of a flood of adrenaline.
In the 1970s two medical doctors named T.H. Holmes and R.H Rahe developed the Holmes-Rahe stress test, which has been widely used and then revised for women. The Holmes-Rahe test is based upon a series of life events, with each event receiving a numerical score for its stress potential or value. In the original sample the researchers discovered that those with scores with over 300 points for the past year had an 80 percent chance of experiencing an illness or depression within the next two years, because of the amount of stress they were experiencing. The results showed the correlation between life change stress and physical and emotional stress.
In the updated survey 2,300 women in 20 states were surveyed to see how they were affected by the same events listed in the original survey. The top 10 stressors are listed below. The numbers in parentheses are the point value for each.
Top 10 Stressors
1. Death of Spouse (99)
2. Divorce (91)
3. Marriage (85)
4. Death of close family member (89)
5. Fired at work (83)
6. Marital separation (78)
7. Pregnancy (78)
8. Jail term (72)
9. Death of a close friend (68)
10. Retirement (68)
Those who participated in the revised survey were given the opportunity to add new stressors to the original list. The list below shows the top 13 items they mentioned, and also indicates the new point values for each item.
Disabled Child (98)
Single Parenting (96)
Child’s illness (85)
Spouse’s illness (85)
Crime victimization (84)
Husband’s retirement (81)
Parenting parents (81)
Chemical dependency (80)
Raising teens (80)
Parent’s illness (78)
The changes in stress patterns are quite apparent. Where do you fit in all of this? Do you agree with the ratings of these stressors? What are the five major stressors in your life at the present time? What are the effects in your life because of each one? Which of these especially evokes or heightens your anger?
How do you lessen the stress in your life and make yourself less prone to anger? You could try to change your environment, whether it be working conditions, home schedule, travel or moving. Some things, however, are difficult to change. Relaxation techniques do help. Tranquilizers are sometimes prescribed for stress, but it should be remembered that some people become overly dependent on tranquilizers.
Perhaps the best approach, after you have taken all the corrective action possible, is to change your thoughts and perspective on what is taking place in your life. At the heart of most of life’s stress is your attitude – your belief system. If you are stuck on the freeway and have an appointment in 20 minutes for which you will now be late, what do you say to yourself? Do you sit there and make statements such as, “I can’t be late! Who’s holding us up? I’ve got to get out of this lane!”
Yes, it’s inconvenient to be stuck, to be late, to have the boss pile work at the last minute or to miss the bus. But what moves you from feeling like a victim to becoming an over-comer is taking control of your circumstances by giving yourself permission to be in the situation you’re in: to have your plans disrupted or to be given too much work or whatever it may be. That will put you back in control, and you’ll feel there is some hope.
It works. It’s learning to put Philippians 4:13 into practice: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Here are a number of suggestions for changing your responses and reducing the stress and fatigue in your life. Making these changes may be uncomfortable at first because you are giving up a way of life that has become familiar. It may take a while to see a change and it will certainly take some effort- but it is worth it to reduce the stress in your life.
– Begin each day by asking God to help you prioritize those items that needs to be done first. Then do only those items you really have time for. If you feel you can accomplish five items during the day, do only four. Write them down and then check them off.
– If you being to feel pressured about completing your tasks, ask yourself these questions: Will completing this task matter three to five years from now? Must it be done now? If so, why? Could someone else do it? If not, why not?
– Try to accomplish only one thing at a time. If you are going to the bathroom, don’t brush your teeth at the same time. If you are waiting for someone on the phone, don’t attempt to look through the mail or a magazine. When someone is talking to you, put down your newspaper, magazine or work an give the person your full attention.
– Reduce your tendency to think and talk rapidly by making a conscious effort to listen to others. Become “a ready listener”. Ask questions to encourage others to continue talking. If you have something to say, ask yourself, who really wants to hear this? Is this the best time to share it?
– Reevaluate your need for recognition. Instead of looking for the approval of others, tell yourself in a realistic way, “I did a good job and I can feel all right about it.”
– If you have the tendency to ask “How much?” and “How many?” and to think in numbers, change the way you evaluate others or situations. Express your feelings in adjectives and not numbers.
– Begin to read magazines and books that have nothing to do with your vocation. Become adventuresome, but don’t see how many different books you can read-or brag to others about this “accomplishment.”
– Play some soft background music at home or at the office to give a soothing atmosphere.
– Attempt to plan your schedule so that you drive or commute when traffic is light. Drive in the slow lane of the highway or freeway. Try to reduce your tendency to drive faster than others or just as fast.
– Pick days to leave your watch at home. Keep track of how often you find yourself looking at your wrist that day.
– Tape-record one of your own phone or dinner conversations and play it back. Note whether you talk most, ask question or listen to answers. Do you speed up your conversation by supplying the endings of sentences for your partner? Do you interrupt or change the topic to fit your needs?
– Don’t evaluate your life in terms of how much you have accomplished or how many material things you have acquired. Recall your past enjoyable experiences for a few minutes each day. Take time to daydream about pleasurable experiences as a child.
– Make your noon hour a rest time away from work. Go shopping, browse through stores, read or have lunch with a friend.
– Begin your day 15 minutes early and do something you enjoy. If you tent to skip breakfast or eat standing up, sit down and take your time eating. Look around the house or outside and fix your interest upon something pleasant you have been overlooking, such as flowers in bloom or a beautiful painting.
– When you arrive home, announce to others (even if it’s just the cat) the first 10 minutes belong to you. Or read while you have a cup of tea in a restaurant for 10 minutes. Ask your husband to watch the children while you take a 15-minute bath or shower before you start dinner. Make this a regular part of your day.
– This one will sound crazy, but get in the longest super market line to practice waiting without getting upset. Give yourself permission to be in a long line. Discover how you can make time pass pleasantly. Speculate upon the lives of those around you. Talk to them about positive things, not about how long the line is. Review pleasant memories.
– As you play games or engage in sports, whether it be racquetball, skiing or cards, do it for enjoyment and not competition. Begin to look for the enjoyment of a good run, an outstanding rally and the good feelings that come with recreation that you have been overlooking.
– Allow yourself more time than you need for your work. Schedule ahead of time and for longer intervals. If you usually take a half hour for a task, allow 45 minutes. You will see an increase in the quality of your work.
1. List the three main stressors in your life at this time.
2. What steps can you take to deal with each one?
3. On a scale of 0 to 10, indicate where you are on the path to burnout.
I’m doing fine Moderate burnout Total burnout
4. Look back over the suggestions on how to deal with stress in your life and decide which three would help you most.
Used with permission from H.Norman Wright and Gary Oliver’s book, Forbidden Emotion.