What Every American Should Know About Stress

Stress can come from a bad relationship, a sick friend or family member, a new job, the death of a loved one, a big change in work responsibilities, a big change in home responsibilities, or something very simple and trivial but still very intense. It doesn’t matter. It affects us whether we notice it or not. What does matter is how you handle stress.

I’ve learned that stress may have many causes. Often just trying to keep track of the things I need to accomplish in my life at this moment can be overwhelming. I have used this experience to help me find ways to get a handle on stress and make myself more aware of how I can manage my stress.

I started doing this in 1998 when I wrote an article in my student paper to help people cope with anxiety. The article was titled “How to Help Your Anxiety” and it explained how to keep track of what you want to accomplish in a day, week, or month and how to keep your mind off those things that bring about worry. The point of the article was to help people learn where they are right now so that they could find a happy place to go (even if it is just for a few moments).

I think the same thing can be applied to stress management and I think every American should understand the symptoms of stress when they find themselves in the same situation each day. The symptom I use here is what has been called the “fear of missing out”. Every day, you are making a decision to do certain things with or and against other people. You are doing this in a way not to do the other people, but in a way that will satisfy your need of doing the right thing. Some of the actions you do or choose to do are to do with your job, others are to do with someone else, and you still don’t realize that your actions are making some people uncomfortable with you. In general, you want to create and build a balance of stress that includes people you respect, but that also brings you pleasure in your work and at home, so that you can feel good about yourself and be able to make yourself whole for the week and each day, without the need for guilt or self-blame.

How to manage stress: ¬†When I was working there as a consultant in the business unit of the hospital, I would get a couple of minutes off every hour to go into the nurse’s office and sit and think. I would come out of there and see a group of women around me, and I would think about how good it would feel when they were here with me in my office, instead of at lunch in another building. I would ask them how they felt and how it felt to feel like this. They laughed and they said that nothing was more liberating than to actually be with someone, instead of talking about work. I realized then that what we find joy doing in our private lives with our favorite person, we miss out on our own joy in front of others.

Another symptom I noticed in myself was the desire to be alone with my thoughts. I also discovered that I sometimes need to go sit alone in the sun and enjoy myself for at least an hour each day. I have also found a practice of meditation helpful at times, and it is worth doing because I have found that my mind gets so busy with thoughts that I get a stronger focus every day.

For this article, I have chosen to cover one of the best tools I have to manage stress, and it is mindfulness. I read some of Dr. Steven Heineberg’s books, and his work has helped me to understand the mind and the role it plays in us. He has described mindfulness as the mental equivalent of yoga. In fact, most spiritual practices involve focusing on the breath in one particular way.