Do what you love for those you love.

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By: Mozelle Forman, Lcsw

Back to school means back to schedules, back to deadlines, back to stressors that were held at bay during the lazy days of summer. Students experience the start of a new school year with a mix of excitement and worry – worry about the new teacher, the new workload, perhaps a new set of classmates, or an entirely new school. Parents worry about getting the kids up on time, helping with their homework, and all the other tasks that go along with achieving academic success.

And even if you don’t have kids, you know that stress can attack from other sides as well. Anything from being stuck in traffic when you are late for an appointment, to your spouse forgetting to do the thing you asked. You can feel stressed from being told you are wrong, being let down, or somebody promising you something and not delivering. These are the inevitable stresses in our life that confront us on a daily basis – the cost of living stressors.
They can’t always be avoided, but they don’t have to stress us out.

We all know that stress can rob us of our health. Studies show that too much stress in our lives affects our immune system, making us susceptible to many illnesses, such as back pain, headaches, stomachaches, and ulcers. Stress also robs us of peace of mind, our ability to be patient with our loved ones, and many times stress prevents us from reacting to situations realistically.

As much as we might wish it, though, trying to avoid stress is not a realistic approach to life, because stress can be present in almost everything we do. All the micromanaging and intense over-planning in the world (a strategy many of us try) will not eliminate every stressor. It just leaves you with your stomach tied in knots and your temper on the verge of exploding if things don’t go exactly the way you planned. And what’s worse, over-planning robs you and your family of the spontaneous pleasures of life.

While some stress is inevitable, other stress is a product of our own making, because how we think about our stress matters more than the stress itself. Psychologist Dr. Albert Ellis, author of How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Anythingcoined the term “awfulizing,” which refers to a dramatic thought pattern, characterized by the tendency to overestimate the potential seriousness or negative consequences of events or situations. Meaning, we make mountains out of mole hills. Dr. Ellis believes that it is our own negative self-talk that leads to worry and stress. So, although there will always be stressful events in our lives, theydon’t all have to be awful.

Negative self-talk is the sneaky, subtle messages we give ourselves that say, “I can’t handle this; it is intolerable.” This type of self-talk causes us to avoid a situation instead of dealing with it, or alternatively to micro-manage in an effort to avoid the feeling of helplessness. In order to reduce the effects of stress we need to transform negative self-talk into positive self-talk which will alleviate stress. Try adopting these examples.

It isn’t awful if I don’t accomplish everything on my list for today.

This traffic jam or red light on Kings Highway will not throw my whole day off.

It is inconvenient (not infuriating) that I have to search for my child’s lost shoe in the morning.

It’s not going to be awful if he/sheis late for school.

I am still loved even if my spouse hasn’t given me what I have asked for.

If you can refuse to make yourself miserable, you’re that much closer to making yourself happy and stress free – every day.

Techniques To Alleviate Stress

Practice emotional reassuring– Ask yourself: Am I going by just my feelings? What am I telling myself about this situation that makes me feel stressed?

Debate mistaken beliefs –Belief: If I take a risk I will fail. Counter this with: It is Ok to take a risk because even if I fail I can learn from my mistakes.

Develop an attitude of letting go– Let go of the need to control, to fix, to regulate others and their schedules.

Take good physical care of yourself – Eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep.