Did you ever have so much to do that you didn’t know where to begin? So you just stared at what appeared to be a mountain before you, and you felt totally overwhelmed. Trying to take on too much at once can make you feel like you can’t handle any of it. It causes anxiety, distress and confusion. You lose your focus because your energies are scattered. And you feel pulled in every direction. Slowing down isn’t an option because then you would just get further behind and that would only cause more stress.
What exactly is stress? The most widely accepted definition of stress is attributed to Richard S. Lazarus. He describes stress as a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that “demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.” So if you feel like you are trying to manage more than you can handle, it is very likely that you are experiencing stress.
According to researchers, stressful life events increase the likelihood of developing stress-related illnesses. This is all dependent on how well we cope with stressors in our lives. Mild headaches or sleep loss and more serious problems like ulcers and migraines could all indicate problems in managing and coping with stress. Stress not only affects our bodies, it also affects our minds and the way we think. Stress affects our performance as well. Sometimes stress can be good. When it is balanced and manageable it can help to challenge us, and keep us motivated and productive. However, stress that is excessive and not properly managed can interfere with our physical, emotional and social functioning.
Fortunately, there are effective ways that excessive stress can be reduced in our lives. Sometimes there is something we can directly do about the problem that can change the situation or environment. Other times we might not be able to do anything to change the situation, but we can change our feelings and perception of it. And when we can’t do either we must endure the stress as we learn to accept what we cannot control. Stress does not have to control your life because it can be managed.
If you find yourself facing a mountain that you can’t seem to see beyond, it’s time to shift your focus and direct your attention to how you can best manage the stress you are facing. Is there something you can do to change the situation? How else can you perceive the stressor and change your feelings about it? Are you willing to accept what is beyond your control and move on?
Everyone has their own level of stress tolerance and different ways of managing stress. In order to manage stress effectively you must figure out how to reduce stress to a level within your means to handle. In doing so, you will find that the mountains before you are not as insurmountable as you may have originally believed. You will be able to face obstacles in your way. And you will be able to get past the barriers erected by stress.
Krystal Kuehn, MA, LPC, LLP, NCC is a licensed professional counselor, author, teacher, and musician. She is the cofounder of New Day Counseling Services, where stress management counseling & professional counseling is provided for individuals, couples, and families. She is also the co-founder of BeHappy4Life.com, an award-winning self help and personal growth site.