Stress – How to Cope

Table of contents for Stress

  1. Stress – Its Effects on Your Health
  2. Stress – How to Cope
  3. Stress – How to Cope Part 2

To avoid living in a constant state of stress and the resulting physical consequences, implement some daily habits to better cope with stress.

These steps on how to alleviate stress come from Dr. Don Colbert’s book, “The Seven Pillars of Health.” If you missed the information on the physical reactions to living life in a repeated state of stress, please read Part 1, “Stress – Its Effects on Your Health,” by clicking this link here or the one at the top of this post.

Practice Mindfulness: This is the concept of letting go of any thought that is unrelated to the present moment and finding something to enjoy in the present moment. Most people do not live well in the present moment; they are always wishing for a different moment in the past when things were happier or simpler, or wishing for a moment in the future when they think they can be happy, such as by getting a promotion, getting out of debt, or buying a new house. Find something enjoyable to focus on in the immediate moment all throughout the day, such as the warmth of the sun, the breeze, music. During breaks at work, don’t think about goals or projects; enjoy your cup of coffee or a magazine. If a stressful thought comes to mind, choose to move on to a thought that is related to what you are presently seeing, hearing, smelling, or feeling that is pleasant. Instead of complaining about what you don’t have, be grateful for what you do have, air conditioning in your house or a car to get to work. Dr. Colbert suggests that his patients go for a walk or go to the zoo to practice focusing on all that can be enjoyed in a moment. “To have complete mental and physical health, mindfulness must become a way of life, a continual pattern for practicing relaxation during your day (p.236).”

Reframe Your Perspectives: Reframing is learning to see the past, present, and future in a positive light by shifting from one’s present point of view to see another person or situation from a new perspective. You cannot control all that happens to you, but you can control your perceptions of those things. Psychologists say that your perceptions and reaction are more important to your physical and mental health than the actual events in your life. “We must learn to reframe every event in our lives that we perceived as tragic, painful, traumatic, or in any negative way.” For patients who had been through the experience of seeing a family member killed or had almost been killed themselves, he asks them to quit re-living the bad experience and start focusing on the positive aspect that they are alive. Albert Ellis, who pioneered this concept, said when negative thoughts pop up automatically, challenge and assess them; don’t just accept them.

This is basically the same concept God speaks of in 2 Cor. 10:5, “Pull down imaginations …and carry every thought away into captivity and make it obedient to Christ.” In other words, do not allow your thoughts to control you. Control them by putting out of your mind ones that are not beneficial to your mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual health. God then instructs us to replace negative thoughts with good ones, “Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy, think of these things (Phil. 4:8).” One may think this is an impossible task, but Dr. Colbert says that often reframing does not take a lot of time as long as you are willing to let the old belief go. Here’s his word of wisdom, “You may feel that it’s not safe to let the belief go, because if you do, the hurtful event might happen again. If you don’t let that distorted belief go, it’s as if the hurtful event is happening to you over and over.”

Have 10 Belly Laughs a Day: This is a prescription that many of Dr. Colbert’s patients find startling, yet true laughing offers one of the most powerful and natural healing methods without any side effects. God states this fact in Scripture, “A glad heart makes a healthy body, but a crushed spirit makes the bones dry (Prov. 17:22).” This is an interesting quote, especially considering how many autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis, come from stress-a literal drying of the bones, or at least the joints in them!

I mentioned a quote from Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor, the other week. Dr. Colbert shared in his book some specifics of that story I had not heard. Frankl encouraged the other prisoners to tell at least one funny story each day about something they planned on doing after they were freed. Not only was the humor a healthy therapy, but it also gave them a vision of being freed. Frankl went on after the war to develop a therapy which incorporated humor.

Forgiveness: When you re-hash in your mind a wrong done to you, or even misperceive that a wrong has been done to you, your brain does not distinguish between short-term and long-term memories when producing a biochemical stress response. If you have not forgiven and re-hash that moment, your body will respond as if the situation is occurring now even if it happened 30 years ago. When you think you have been wronged, or have been intentionally hurt, being offended is always optional—just like accepting a package that is delivered by courier to your door. Dr. Colbert quotes Joyce Meyer, “Bitterness and unforgiveness are like drinking poison and wishing the other person would die,” because the harm from those thoughts is coming solely to you. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you weren’t hurt, but that you are not going to live tied to that incident. For more on forgiveness, read my post, “Forgiveness or Reconciliation.”

Build Margins into Your Life: A margin is a buffer to keep you from being overwhelmed. Give yourself extra travel time for an appointment. Spend so that you will have a margin or “buffer” of a little bit left over each month out of what you earned. Build a margin into your list of commitments, so that you have personal free time and family time.

The research on this topic came from chapters 44-48 of Dr. Don Colbert’s book, The Seven Pillars of Health. For more detailed reading, see his book, ISBN#1-59185-815-1

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