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A Better ME Makes A Better WE

May 07, 2018 11:52AM ● By Don Short

In our day to day lives we like to feel that we are on top of things, a sense of control. We desire a “perfect” day, a day that goes as planned. When someone or something comes along and messes up our day, we are stressed and desire to correct the situation. The longer the process of correcting the situation, the more stress one feels. Some of us have difficulty managing high levels of stress, while others are less bothered. Some prefer more intense situations and will create or seek out activities that are more intense. Let’s consider different types of stress and also review how stress may affect us.

Here are three types of stress that one can experience:

1. Anticipatory stress – I remember back when my children were attending a private Christian School and I was asked if I would be interested in being the President of the PTO, Parent Teacher Organization. I was hesitant because I had never served in these types of roles. I was stressed at the thought of the idea. Am I ready for this? Will the parents and teachers accept me? My fears and insecurities were stressing me as I was concerned about not succeeding in the role of PTO President. I ended up serving two terms and thoroughly enjoyed it. Don’t let anticipatory fears stop you from being the person you can be.

2. Chronic stress
– Several years ago we adopted a cute six-year-old boy. He was diagnosed with ADHD. My wife and I knew that raising him would be a challenge and that an ADHD child can raise the stress level in a home while we are also raising three of our children and other foster children. Any child with a diagnose of a severe mental or physical health condition can raise the level of chronic stress parents have to deal with on a day to day basis. When chronic stress is a part of one’s life, it is really important that one makes sure that they are taking time out for themselves. Develop a support network and structure and plan some time to really take care of yourself. This is the only way one can keep their sanity while living with chronic stress.

3. Residual stress
– This comes from the carrying of unresolved stressful issues from our past. And also, over time there can be a cumulative effect which can lead to one little new stress pushing us outside of our window of tolerance and causing us to feel overwhelmed. My son was killed in a car accident August 23, 2000. This was an extremely stressful event and I remember carrying the residual stress for years. This along with the cumulative effect of the other stressors in my life, I felt overwhelmed on several occasions. As I was able to resolve these previously unresolved issues in my life, my life started to return back to normal.

Three ways stress has affected me:

1. My Thoughts

• I would have bad dreams about the traumatic event.

• I obsessed about the event in an effort to make sense out of it.

• I had difficulty concentrating.

• I questioned my spiritual beliefs.

2. My Feelings

• I felt numb, withdrawn and disconnected.

• I experienced fear and anxiety.

• I felt depressed or down at times.

• I had feelings of anger and irritability.

3. My Behaviors

• I tried isolating myself from others.

• I had problems sleeping.

• I avoided activities, places and people.

• I kept excessively busy at times to calm my thought process.

We must pay attention to what is going on in the world around us and how it is affecting us mentally, physically and spiritually. Let’s make the opportunity to identify, and where possible correct situations that are stressing us. Individual and family routines are good at keeping structure in our lives. We all need a sense of structure and order. Maintain healthy boundaries in your relationships so that others do not impose their stuff onto you. Don’t isolate yourself but develop relationships where there is healthy reciprocity, where there is a sharing of positive energy and activities. We should not turn to drugs and alcohol to assist in managing the stress in their lives. This solves nothing but often makes matters a lot worse and at some point, the issues of one’s life will have to be addressed. Forgive yourself and forgive others, let go of things in your past that are weighing you down. Develop a level of spirituality in your life that can be used as a resource during times of stress and difficulty. I know that when I take care of ME, I can take better care of the WE in the relationship, my spouse and my children.

Don Short is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), and EMDR Therapist. His practice focuses on clients with marriage, relationship and family issues. To learn more contact 337-781-4565 or visit: