Perhaps you knew you had too much stress in your life and you worked hard to reduce it. You created positive habits and turfed some old routines that were not serving your physical and mental well being. Unfortunately, if you are not careful, all it takes are a few setbacks, and poof – those nasty little stressors come back with a vengeance.
It happened to me.
I was in a car accident a year ago which left me unable to do a lot of the physical activities I enjoy – including playing softball with my team, the Stingers. Nearly a year has passed. I received therapy, slowly began preparing my muscles by taking yogalates classes and now it was time to play ball again. Early in the season I pulled a hamstring muscle because I didn’t warm up properly.
I look forward to playing winter softball all year round. Getting hurt so early in the season was not only discouraging, it became a major stress producer. I took my scenario to new imagined heights. “What if I’m out all season?” I thought with despair. “If I can’t exercise I’ll gain weight. If I gain weight my blood pressure will rise…” It was as if I were creating the tragedy of all time while sitting on the bench (on a beautiful day no less) playing ball with some of the nicest ladies on the planet.
This was only the first of several scenarios I envisioned. All were negative and all were spiking my stress level. Pretty soon my grousing exited my thoughts and came out of my mouth in verbal form.
Normally I am a “glass-half-full kinda gal,” so my pessimism raised a few eyebrows. My teammate, Jo, was especially surprised since she knew I not only valued an optimistic attitude, I penned a book about it (Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within.) She suggested I reread what I wrote. Talk about a wake-up call.
That evening I pondered what Jo said. The hamstring pull was a pain, but certainly not the end of the world. What was causing me to unleash my inner grouch and voluntarily allow my stress level to soar?
Upon reflection I realized I went into a slow, but steady downspin following my car accident the year before. Over time, some of my positive routines disintegrated into bad habits. Instead of exercising like I would’ve liked to do, I had to be sedentary and heal. I began watching more television – including programs that were violent and depressing. This not only gave me nightmares, it affected my attitude. Slowly, but surely, I was giving my inner grouch permission to run amok. My normal sense of stress-reducing calm was rapidly deteriorating.
Fortunately Jo’s comment caused me to examine the issue and correct it. I was a little embarrassed with my flirtation with the dark side, but it’s not like I had total amnesia on all things hopeful and stress reducing. I just needed a little refresher course. Here are a few tips on how to refresh your optimism and reduce your stress.
- Go back to the basics. Review the basic principles of how to clear stress (this website has tons of great pointers.) Chances are you didn’t develop an esoteric tendency that nullifies ALL your past efforts, you just need a quick review,
- To prevent from going too far off course, monitor your progress on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis. It can be a list, check-up sheet, journal or any tool of your choosing. The point is to have a barometer to measure your level of self-induced stress. When you review your emotions you can spot when your attitude is taking a nosedive and catch it before it becomes a serious problem.
- It’s a cliché, but it’s true – everyone makes mistakes. No one is perfect, not even the self-help gurus. Nothing is gained by beating yourself up. In fact, that is one sure way to increase your stress. We can’t control all the stress-infused calamities in life, but fortunately we have 100% control on how we treat ourselves.
- Create an internal emotional vibration that matches the positive things you want to manifest. You can’t attract happiness when you dwell on misery any more than you can make orange juice by squeezing an onion. Match your thoughts, speech, actions and emotions with your desired outcome, NOT YOUR FEARS.
It’s been a couple weeks and my hamstring hurts, but it’s healing. I’m running on my own (at a greatly reduced speed) and my hitting is back to where it was before. To prevent new injuries I’m more careful about stretching and warming up my muscles. To keep my negativity from affecting me and my teammates, I keep those stress-producers thoughts, speech and actions in check. Yes, I could complain (it’s certainly easy enough) but I know it won’t help my situation. Not even a little.
Instead of going on rant-fest I decided to look at this painful experience as a life lesson. Maybe I had to get a pain in the butt to learn how to not BE a pain in the butt. Now how is that for a refreshing thought?
Sally Marks is the president of Marks Public Relations and an award-winning journalist, screenwriter and television writer. Marks and Jacqueline Howard co-authored the popular self-help book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within and offer motivational workshops to businesses, schools and organizations on self-improvement topics. Visit www.EraseNegativity.com for more information.