Stress Busting: Principles of Stress-Management, Part 2

by | Mar 21, 2000 | POLITICS

In my last I covered seven principles of Stress Management. Here are seven more: 8. Process your feelings, and introspect, regularly. When you encounter a dilemma or issue, discuss it with a close friend, a professional counselor, or yourself (e.g., in the form of a diary or journal). Ignoring, repressing, or evading a personal issue […]

In my last I covered seven principles of Stress Management. Here are seven more:

8. Process your feelings, and introspect, regularly. When you encounter a dilemma or issue, discuss it with a close friend, a professional counselor, or yourself (e.g., in the form of a diary or journal).

Ignoring, repressing, or evading a personal issue will not make it go away. On the contrary: the people most ruled by their emotions are the rationalists who pride themselves on never looking inward at their feelings.

Strive to be rational, but recognize that being rational includes accepting the fact that you have feelings. You need to process these feelings so they do not overwhelm you or lead you to inappropriate, self-destructive behaviors. Schedule regular emotional/mental “tune-ups” either with yourself or, if more practical, with a professional or loved one who is willing and able to listen.

9. Work productively, not compulsively. Productive work means focusing on the task you are doing while you are doing it. Concentrate on what you are doing, and strive to do it well (even enjoyably) rather than focusing or dwelling on what your next task will be.

Many people under stress take on one activity and, instead of focusing on the task itself, think to themselves, “How am I going to get the next task done? And the next one? I’ve got so much to do, how will I ever finish?” The anxiety and stress levels build and build. Such thoughts do nothing to make the workload any lighter; in fact, they make things worse because they distract you from successfully, competently and enjoyably finishing your current task.

Instead of thinking about everything you have to do in one hour, one day, or one week, try to focus exclusively on what you are doing. Organize yourself and plan ahead, but limit the amount of time you spend on planning. Planning and looking ahead are crucial; but they are of little use if they distract you from competence and enjoyment in the here-and-now.

10. Set limits and boundaries on others. When you are busy, you cannot always say “yes” to others, even to others who are of value to you. Remember that it is OK to say “no” to an invitation or a request to do a favor. You are not obliged to sacrifice (surrender a higher value for a lesser value, or no value) for anyone, even loved ones; and they are not obliged to sacrifice for you. Remember, too, that non-sacrificial compromise is often an option. For example: ” I really want to get together with you. This weekend is not good for me. How about a week from Sunday?”

Stand back from your personal and business relationships, from time to time, and objectively analyze them. Ask yourself such questions as: “Am I getting back what I’m putting into this relationship? Is it a good investment of my time, energy, money, etc.?” If not, then perhaps you should minimize or even end the business or personal relationship in question.

Create an environment in all your relationships where it is OK for you to ask for what you want, and it is OK for the other individual to do the same. (Double standards are unfair, and do not work). Such an environment encourages honest, authentic relationships rather than relationships based upon false niceties, self-sacrifice, and dishonesty. In the short run you may lose some people by setting such honest standards, but over the long run you will enjoy relationships of only the highest quality.

11. Practice rational communication. It is in your own self-interest to communicate with those of value to you (personally or professionally) in a reasonable way.

In a discussion, listen to what the other has to say rather than rehearsing your response; listen critically, but still listen.

Avoid interrupting. If interrupting is unavoidable, then ask, “Can I say something, please?” rather than plunging in with your statement.

If a point is not clear to you, then ask the other party to clarify it; nobody can read minds. Never be embarrassed to ask if you do not recognize the name of a person or concept someone else identifies; if you don’t know it, you don’t know it, and it is fraudulent to pretend that you do.

12. Recognize that many disagreements are simply not going to be resolved, no matter how well you argue. You can request discontinuing the discussions at any time if you find you are getting nowhere. The possibility exists that the other person will give your points serious thought later on, even if it does not seem likely at the time.

Avoid defensiveness, and opt instead for calm explanation. Defensiveness implies to the other party that you have no valid point, or that your point is insufficiently thought out. Explanation, on the other hand, shows you have given careful thought to your case and that it at least merits respect and attention.

If tensions build to where you are too emotional to go on, then ask the other person if you may continue the discussion at a specified time (and keep your promise to continue it; don’t merely put them off).

13. Accept the absolutism of reality. What is, is. Merely wishing something to be different cannot make it so. Use your intellect to distinguish between what is certainly outside of your control (e.g., the weather, death, other’s choices) from what is potentially under your control (e.g., good school/work performance, achievement of a goal with persistence and practice). Focus on that which is under, or at least potentially under, your control.

14. Remember that reality does not have a will and consciousness of its own. Reality is not a person. Reality is not a conscious entity. Contrary to what you were taught, no actual invisible hand governs the universe.

Planes crash because pilots make errors, and because of faulty engine parts. Car accidents happen because of inadequate roads, faulty cars, or poor judgment by drivers. Coincidences happen because coincidences happen. People get diseases because of bacteria, viruses, and other causes not yet discovered, but potentially discoverable. Things happen for a reason — but for logical reasons, not mystical ones.

Existence exists, and only existence exists: not “fate,” nor other mystical fantasies. Neither empirical evidence, nor logical argumentation derived from it, even suggests the existence of mystical forces. We live in a rational universe where not everything is known (at least, not yet), but everything is, at least potentially, knowable.

All that happens, however mysterious it may sometimes seem, nevertheless follows certain logical laws. The laws of gravity operated long before scientists discovered and named them. The earth revolved around the sun in the Middle Ages, even while people were put to death for believing so. Scientists do not yet fully understand what is needed to cure cancer or AIDS; but thankfully they are using logic and reason to discover cures, rather than waiting for “fate” to do its work.

Rational people understand, intellectually, that existence does not have a will or a consciousness, but nevertheless experience conflicting premises on the emotional level. Example: “Why me? Why did my train have to be delayed? Why is everything going wrong for me today?” (Do you ever, by the way, ask such questions when everything goes well on a given day?)

The implication of such a feeling is that some unseen force is acting against you, is trying to make your life miserable and to block you in your goals. Now that’s a stressful way to think. Although your own life should be your most important value, it is still irrational to assume (even subconsciously) that the universe revolves around you, and even more irrational to think that some force is deciding when some people suffer while others prosper.

If you really want to conquer stress, consider this the root premise upon which all the other methods of stress management depend: existence, and only existence, exists. Once you explicitly identify this self-evident fact, you will grasp that it is your job to live according to reality, rather then running into that proverbial brick wall.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at:

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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