Everybody is experiencing stress at the moment.  We are not just worried about our own situation, but tend to worry about our children, parents and friends as well. The economic insecurities manifest in increased anxiety, insomnia, irritability and feelings of depression and helplessness.

Most of us already implement stress reduction techniques- some helpful, and some harmful.  Examples of helpful stress management are exercising, meditation, prayer, massage and visiting friends, to name but a few. On the other hand, at the same time, we engage in gossip, develop a cover your own butt attitude, obsess, over-eat/drink/smoke/gamble - all not helpful stress management techniques.

How do we determine if our stress management techniques are helpful or harmful?  Someone in one of my seminars said a six-pack is helpful but a 12-pack is harmful.  Exactly!  I usually ask myself three questions to determine if it is a good way to deal with something or not.

1) Does it calm me down = increase a sense of peace?

2) Does it make me feel good about myself?

3) Does it lead to action?

If your stress management activities do any or all of these three things, it is probably helpful.  Let’s take the example of “talking to someone”.  It really depends.  Some people will just rile you up some more, while others have the ability to calm you down.  Some get you fretting about things you have no control over, while others motivate you to do something for someone else.  We also tend to keep doing the same thing over and over, not stopping to see if it is helpful or harmful. Try to check in with yourself and ask yourself if your actions are helping or hurting.

We all function within a big circle of concern (things that impact us) and a much smaller circle of control (things we impact).  If I spend my stress management time in the big circle of concern (things that I have no control over), I tend to obsess, worry and see doom and gloom. Think of it as an anti clockwise energy drain – it spins around its own axel. On the other hand, no matter how small the action that I take, if I function in the circle of control, I will feel better about myself. If you can not drum up enough energy to do something for yourself, do something for somebody else. It will allow you to feel good about yourself and, once again, it is action.

What can you do if your symptoms of stress increase? Identify the three most helpful techniques for yourself. Think about times when you have felt very calm, or very good about yourself or very much in control. What lead you to that? Try to increase those activities. Standard prescriptions for stress management usually include some kind of physical activity – walking, biking, swimming, playing with the dog etc. Any activity that gets you moving will help your body settle down. The second part of it is some kind of activity to get you in a peaceful, “in the moment” place. This can be meditation, prayer, deep breathing or a massage. At the same time, try to lessen the harmful things that you are doing that keeps you in a state of worrying.

However, if things are getting out of control, contact someone for help. Help can be practical, action oriented help such as budget creating, or peace oriented help such as speaking to a counselor. There are many free resources at the moment to help you deal with your stress. Make use of it! It is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of activity which is, in itself, stress reducing. And, if all else fails… remember the old adage… “this too shall pass.”

- Marita Klein

About the Author:  Marita is an organizational development consultant who has helped many private and organizational clients live the lives they want through her forthright, no nonsense approach to management and life. She has a Ph.D. in organizational psychology and has worked effectively as executive coach and consultant in South Africa, Canada and the US. She can be contacted at:  maritaklein (at) cox (dot) net.