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Getting a handle on stress

By Staff | Sep 13, 2012

MUNCY – Health educator, RN and director of the Life Center at the Lycoming Mall, Robin Dawson, presented an informative wellness program a few weeks ago on how to handle stress, which can lead to chronic diseases if not managed properly. Daily lives require so much balance and sometimes things happen that are beyond control. “The tools are with us,” she told the group, ” to control the stress in our life.”

“It is not necessarily what happens in your life, but your own body’s reaction to the stress,” Dawson said while handing out a Stress Profiler assessment tool to the group. Unmanaged stress is unhealthy stress so she identified ways to recognize the stressors that are generally experienced over a lifetime. Some things are out of our control such as the loss of a loved one, or a disruption from a family member. The stressors are the events that cause the stress, and our responses are the causes of the stress.

Each member in the workshop had an opportunity to identify a stressor such as people, relationships, the weather, illnesses, traffic, listening to the news, finances, and health just to name a few. Dawson asked, “What can you change?” It is really the perception or belief about the event that stresses us out. For example, you feel you may lose your job if you can’t find a missing file. “At this point, the stressor imparts a value to us, and so we need to change the way we think about it in the moment,” Dawson added.

We are always going to have stress but the belief about the event can be changed. The goal is to always stay in control of the situation. Is the goal to get angry, or find the missing car keys? Dawson recommends to take a deep breath and relive the process quietly through the mind to regain control of the situation. “What we choose to do will determine what happens.” Some sequence of events can’t be controlled such as death, a disability or a divorce. The body reacts with a lot of physical changes. “If you believe an event is stressful, it will be.”

Often it is learned behavior. And a set of problems can be patterns of behavior that are so familiar, we don’t stop to think about them. It is best to unlearn bad habits. Try to minimize an active event such as a jammed printer. Dawson related some techniques and gave the participants resourceful handouts. “Find the good in a bad situation,” she said. Cinnabelle Gottschall from Muncy, a member in the group, said she likes to talk to her girl friends about it as a technique. It helps her gain a better perspective. Another member related her experience switching careers and realized that by changing her perspective, no negative or unhealthy consequences were caused by the situation.

Meditation is another effective technique. It is a gentle process that requires quiet breathing. Visualization can often combat stress. “Imagine lying in a hammock on a spring day, gazing up at the deep blue sky.” Focusing on pleasant thoughts causes relaxation, and most people feel a measure of well-being and decreased tension after taking about 5 minutes for time out.

Shift your focus forward. Instead of a negative reaction, take an assertive role, avoid blame and look at the big picture. “Change the irrational to the rational, ” concluded Dawson.

Three things took place at the end of the interactive session. Number one was to identify stress or chronic occurrences, then decide which ones could be changed. Finally, decide on an action plan on what can be changed and how. For example, if driving to work drives you crazy, then try listening to audio tapes or take a different route. Change the situation, or better yet, change your reaction to the situation. “Don’t sweat the small stuff, it’s all small stuff.”