Communication and Self-Management to Reduce Stress
By Joshua Uebergang
Not enough time, boss pushing for work to be completed, children are annoying you, bills to pay, shopping to be done, housework to do, partner asking for your help...
Does this sound like a familiar scenario in your life? Stress is always with us controlling what we do and how we feel. If you're stressed you do things faster and in an unhappier way. You either become aggressive towards other people as a form of releasing the stress or you become submissive by hiding the stress.
By becoming aggressive towards another person, it temporarily feels okay, but then reality kicks in as you feel even more stressed from hurting the other person. When you are submissive and hide your stress, it internally eats at you hurting your emotions and your relationships.
When under stress, your communication style will change in response to the situation. You can go from a cool and collected person one moment when not under stress, yet when a stressful situation impinges your tolerable threshold your calm style will shift into the aggressive or submissive behavioral states.
What behavior you fall back on in the stressful situation will be the one you have been comfortable with using in the past that will most likely have "protected" you. It's a natural human extinct built within us that we use to block out external factors and listen to internal ones. You probably now are able to realize that when you are stressed you begin to block out external factors, such as how other people are feeling, as your interpersonal skills begin to lessen. You begin to only show concern for what your internal factors are telling you.
When someone has surpassed their tolerable stress level, telling them to get their "act together" or how ineffective their current communication is, often does not work.
You need to learn ways to manage your stress and not let it get the better of you and the people around you. Stress motivates us to take action but it too often works against us. I've come up with the best ways and techniques to manage stress:
- Prevention - As telling someone who is overly stressed to get their "act together" is often ineffective, arguably one of the best strategies to manage stress is preventing yourself or someone else from reaching high stress levels. You can incorporate other stress management techniques listed below into the stressful situation before it's too late. Preventing and reducing the problem is a highly effective self-management technique.
- Leave others alone - If the other person is not involved, leave them alone. It is so tempting to release your stress on other people. Do not treat people inappropriately. By treating them the way they do not want to be treated, you build up their stress which they will be happy to put back on you. If someone is causing stress, you need to address the person explaining to them how you feel, why you feel that way, and what can be done to fix the problem. Do not stress out the person by focusing your reason for being stressed directly on the person but focus on the problem. It is being problem oriented and not person oriented.
- Self understanding - You need to manage yourself and control your emotions. You need to be aware if you are treating a person in an appropriate way because of the stress. You need to know that you are stressed, why you are stressed, and ways to manage the stress.
- Responsibility - When you accept responsibility, you live in truth. You do not become a victim of others. You begin to control and create your feelings. You stop blaming others for what has happened to you and you become proactive in controlling feelings, thoughts, and stresses. By accepting responsibility as way of managing stress, you begin self-control.
- Self-control - You are in complete control of your emotions. It's through learning to manage your mind that you correctly manage your stress. This is where your self discipline kicks in. Other people do not have access to your mind unless you give them the authorization. You have complete control of your emotions and actions. However, your ability to be in control of your emotions and actions is dependent on your desire, discipline, and skill set.
- Stop worrying - Worrying is extremely destructive for your health. It is about anticipating the future and doing nothing about it. If you did do something in anticipation of the future, you would then be planning and not worrying. You try to think what will happen in the near future, but nothing more than unnecessary thoughts occur: "What if...?" "What will happen...?" STOP LIVING IN THE FUTURE and think about what you can fully control now. That is, think about today!
- Don't stay still - When feeling down, it is easy to throw in the towel and give up. Winston Churchill said, "If you are going through hell, keep going." Don't stop and give up. I encourage you to stop, relax, and be smart, but do not lose the perseverance to keep going. If you are going through an awful patch in life, by stopping there you remain in the awful patch.
- Go away - You may just need to go away for a bit to refresh your mind. If you can afford to go on a Caribbean cruise, go for it! For us others who cannot do that, go for a walk or work-out. By being physically active you release hormones that counter stress. Being away from the stress also takes your mind off the problem and gives you clearer thoughts and feelings.
- Be flexible - Stress is like the sunrise and sunset. It is inevitable. You need to be able to recognize when others are stressed by reading their verbal and non-verbal language then adjust accordingly. Be flexible by going a bit out of your way for them, to assist their temporary needs and wants. Don't run around the world for them but do be more aware and responsive to them.
- Ask others - It is very useful to ask others what you do when you enter that threshold level where you begin to block out external factors. Just ask them what you are like and how it makes them feel when you are stressed. You are asking others because assessing yourself when you are experiencing heavy emotions is known to be an inaccurate source of information. By understanding your communication responses you will deepen your self-understanding and build more awareness and self-control.