We are continuing with our series on the causes of and ways to cope with stress. In her book, The Dynamics of Relationships, Patricia Kramer lists many of the ways we create unnecessary stress in our lives. The list includes:
The need to win
The need to be perfect
Tendency to over-plan
Not being appropriately prepared
Persistent need to advance and be recognized
Inability to relax without guilt
Fear of rejection
Impatience with delays and interruptions
Involvement with multiple projects with many deadlines
Chronic sense of time urgency
Excessive competitive drive
Fear of failure
Compulsion to overwork
Then Patricia asks, "Which of these describe you?"
Some of us can relate to many of these. Probably the one stressor that we see acted out most often is impatience. We have to wait on others who are chronically late for appointments or when we have to wait in a long line at the grocery store. Invariably, after we wait for what seems like a long time, the store decides to open another register. Some of us act like the store is doing this to us on purpose. We feel entitlement - we should not have to be inconvenienced.
Something that has helped me in this area is to look at my watch when I get in line. It is amazing that the time the watch says I waited is not as long as what I perceived. Whether we fuss out loud or not, we still have to wait.
One stressor that is not on the above list is creating mountains out of molehills. When camping on the Appalachian Trail, I discovered that I have a strong fear of bears. The realization came during the first night. As we sat around the campfire, a friend who was very familiar with the mountains announced, "You know these woods are full of bears." Needless to say, I didn't sleep too well that night. I heard every noise.
The next day while hiking, we thought we saw a bear on the path ahead of us. My heart was beating wildly in my neck. I felt panicky because there was nowhere to run for safety. What do I do? Run? Play dead? Then I realized that what I thought was a bear was actually a log! What a change in my feelings! I had all the feelings for the log that I would have had for a bear. It was my perception that created all the fear and stress.
How many times in our life experiences have we made logs into bears? We turn our logs into bears by the way we perceive our mistakes or failures.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700
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