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I'm Not Perfect At Managing Stress, So I Focus On What I Can Control

It is when the source of our stress is beyond our control that we struggle with managing the stress that comes with it.

09/19/2017 17:32 EDT | Updated 09/19/2017 17:32 EDT
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Shot of a young businesswoman looking anxious in a demanding office environment

Other people cause stress. The choices they make, the things they do and don't do can easily cause you stress. We read and see so many tips on controlling or minimizing our stressors, but when that stress is caused by someone else, what can we do?

We know there are many types of stress: financial stress, relationship stress, physical and emotional stress are just a few. Controlling some of our stressors is possible. Remembering not to "sweat the small stuff" works occasionally. But sometimes the stress we are feeling is completely out of our control, and we don't know what to do.

When we feel in control of situations, we can control our stress to a reasonable level. It is when the source of our stress is beyond our control that we struggle with managing the stress that comes with it.

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Weather, the economy, government decisions, as well as words and actions of other people fall into the category of being outside of our control. We can't change these situations, and we are often stressed because we want to and often try to.

What I do about the stress caused by my lack of control is 100 per cent in my control. I can't necessarily control what is causing me stress, but I can control how I deal with it.

Staying calm is important. Not easy, but important. What do you need to do to stay calm? Do you need to remind yourself to take a few deep breaths before you speak? Do you limit the amount of time you allow yourself to vent? Do you stay away from the things that spark the stress?

There are some discussions I just refuse to have with other people. I need to stay calm, and when I try to express my point of view or reason with them, I am not staying calm.

Do what you can control.

That doesn't mean I stick my head in the sand. It means I am cautious about what I say and to whom I say it to. I may vent with my husband about the situation, and I can tell him how I feel, but I will only vent once or twice. If I continually bring up the subject I am not only making my stress worse but his too.

I'm staying away from some online discussions. I watch the news, but not continually. I'm trying to keep myself calm about situations I cannot impact.

Distraction works. Maybe we need to take ourselves away from the environment that is causing stress. For me right now that is the news and social media. So I'm taking time to distract myself with other things (such as a good book, movie, or a nice walk).

Exercise is guaranteed to make a difference. You can burn away all the tension this uncontrolled stressor is causing you. If you must, think about it the entire time, but don't say anything, and use that anger or frustration to good use.

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I'm a runner. You can guarantee I'll get a great run out of my stress and frustration. That coincidentally gets me away from the news and social media for at least an hour too (double whammy!).

When you catch yourself starting to feel the panic and stress levels, stop yourself and force yourself to take five deep breaths. The kind of breath that goes from your toes to the tip of your head.

Saying and thinking soothing, positive thoughts to yourself such as "Take a deep breath. Feel calm. Slow down. Calm." The power of positive repetition can't be ignored.

Do what you can control. Since I can't control other people, I can control what I say to them. Sometimes saying nothing at all is the best stress relief I can have.

I may not be perfect about managing my stress, but I can take control of situations so that I'm able to control my little piece of the situation and keep my stress levels down.

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