Stress Management

Stress is the internal sense that your ability to cope with demands will soon fail. Why is stress so important? Greater levels of stress lead to an increased likelihood of developing symptoms and illnesses.

Not all stress responses are bad. If you’ve ever accidentally stepped off of a curb only to miss being hit by a car, you’ve probably noticed that your heart and respiration rates instantly and automatically increase. This is an example of the fight-or-flight response in action. It’s there to protect you, in this case helping you jump out of the way of the car. Revving up your body with adrenaline could very well keep you alive.

The problem occurs when you don’t actually need such a high level of readiness—when fighting or fleeing isn’t necessary. Normally, there isn’t imminent danger when you’re stressed out, so it’s a false alarm. Put simply, the fire alarm is ringing, but there isn’t a fire!

When the fight-or-flight response is elicited by prolonged stress in the absence of a physically threatening situation, you can experience anxiety or panic. If you remain in this state for too long, you can also develop headaches, muscle spasms, allergies, or stomach problems. All of this depletes your Qi—your vital force. Without a doubt, at least some of the symptoms of everyday tiredness are due to high levels of stress with chronic activation of the fight-or-flight response

In addition to many unpleasant physical symptoms, longstanding stress can eventually cause burnout—a state of mental exhaustion characterized by helplessness, depression, loss of control, and inability to cope.

Your cognitive distortions determine how you react to stress. Yes, past and present experiences can heavily influence you, but the mechanism of that influence is your thinking. If you were neglected as a young child, for example, you might have the irrational belief you don’t deserve to be happy or loved. It’s stress from today’s belief that’s bothering you, not the neglect from years ago. The point is that you have control over your reactions to circumstances. Stress is unavoidable, but what you can change is how you look at and respond to events in your life.

An important goal of de-stressing therapy, or stress management, is to identify, dispute, and replace the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that lead to exhaustion, burnout, anxiety, and depression. When you think differently about why you overdo everything as well as commit to simplifying and slowing down, you can minimize the stressors that are wearing you out.