Disability: Small Choices Lead to Big Results in Stress Management

Disabled man using tabletIt is said that there are two things we can count on: death and taxes. I’d like to add to that list stress. Stress affects all of us, and it is believed to cause many of the other medical and psychological problems we experience.

Yesterday was a very stressful day for me. I knew within an hour of getting out of bed this morning that the same stress threatened to spill over into today—because of my thoughts.

People and families who live with a disability often have very high levels of stress. Those I work with often face not only the stress associated with their medical care and activities of daily living, but also financial and relationship stress, to name a few.

Rather than compare our problems or stressful situations, I thought I would share the process I am using to rescue today from the threat of yesterday’s stress. I hope that by sharing the process, others will realize they can do the same.

Our Thinking Makes All the Difference
Another thing I know to be true is that how I choose to look at something will determine how I feel about it—and what I do about it. Based my own life experience and work, I have learned that I can change my feelings and actions by changing my thoughts. I am not saying this is easy, but there are mounds of research to support this theory. I am doing it myself, right this moment.

Choosing Our Way Out of a Funk
We always have choices. They may be limited to the lesser of the evils, but if we think about it long enough, there is almost always a choice to make. It is also important to remember that not taking action is making a choice. Choosing to do nothing is a legitimate choice, and it will lead to consequences.

Choices I’ve Made in the Past Two Hours
Stay in bed as late as possible or get up early and have three hours before leaving for work:

It was tempting to sleep in this morning to avoid time to think/worry/obsess. But getting up early and having more time before work is usually best for me. I got up.

Take all my vitamins and supplements or take the minimum to avoid the unpleasant taste:

Some days it is hard to swallow all the pills, especially the vitamins that smell and taste bad, but they clear my head and give me energy. I took all of the pills.

Follow my usual morning routine of catching up with friends on Facebook or work on a pressing project before work:

I have a morning ritual of reading Facebook while I wake up. I usually find a lot of funny things to set the tone for the day, and enjoy the banter with friends. I chose my Facebook time.

Take time to love my cat or push her away because it slows my typing:

Petting animals, especially my sweet, loving, little kitty, releases all kinds of good-feeling hormones, but it is hard to read Facebook and type with a cat draped across my chest. I chose the cat, even if takes longer on Facebook.

Make myself a high-protein breakfast or grab something simple but less good for me:

Even after all of those feel-good things this morning (including the vitamins and supplements), I was still dazed and dragging after an hour. Protein was the best choice.

Allow myself to wallow in fear about the “what-ifs” or distract myself with something therapeutic and distracting:

It occurred to me that I needed to do something to distract my mind from the circuit of worry and fear. I remembered this article is due in two days.

Make this article about my process or write about something academic and less risky:

I thought about writing a gratitude list, which often helps me feel less powerless, but I decided to risk sharing something personal here (which will have the same effect as the gratitude list) instead of playing it safe.

Dread going to work on my late day or look at how my work inspires me:

Instead of fretting about working very late today, I reminded myself of how energized I feel when counseling people at work, and how much I learn from the caregivers, family, and friends in the group I facilitate tonight.

Manage my time or risk the stress of having to rush to get to work on time:

I chose to start getting ready for work a bit early today, since it was on the way to work yesterday that events beyond my control intervened, resulting in the most stressful day I’ve had in months.

Results of My Choices
The good news: My worry and fear have been replaced with rational thought, appreciation, and gratitude. My outlook is now positive, and my energy is focused and much higher than an hour ago. I am ready to greet the day with an open heart and expectations of a brighter day. I hope you will consider making the choices that lead you in the same direction. I could have chosen differently and had a repeat of yesterday; I chose things that will result in a better day, today.

Final note: It is now the next day after I wrote the above. The day was great—I had energy, felt good, and made good progress with clients. The group went well last night, and I made it home at 8:30 p.m. with energy to spare. The choices I made earlier in the day made that possible—and yes, I do have a disability, in case you are wondering.

What about you? What do you do to manage your moods and thoughts? How do you salvage the day when it looks like it could be going downhill?

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by LuAnn Pierce, LCSW

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Leandra

    February 19th, 2013 at 4:06 PM

    I may have said this before on here, I don’t know, but a sure fire way for me to change my mood is to go for a run. Sometimes it is the hardest thing ever to get started, to out those shoes on and go, but I swear to you, sometimes exerices is the only way that I can let go of a little bit of stress in life and manage to have a good day! I realize that there are those of you who aren’t there, and this isn’t something that you get to overnight. But I promise you that the next time it feels like you are having the worst day of your life and there is no way to change it, go for a walk. Enjoy the peace that it can bring you and your day will instantly get better. When you make that choice to do something and commit to a better day, it will happen.

  • LuAnn

    February 19th, 2013 at 7:48 PM

    Thanks for adding that choice. This was a day when I didn’t have the energy, so I choice not to do that, but on a day when I have more energy that is a choice I make at times. It is a little miracle each time.

  • Mary Beth

    February 19th, 2013 at 5:59 PM

    Thank you. I appreciate your article on Stress. I’m going through something that may seem trivial to some but I can’t seem to turn the brain off and cry all day. I do have an appointment next week for therapy. Again thank you. Mary Beth

  • Matt

    February 19th, 2013 at 11:14 PM

    The hardest part is not choosing the best option but being aware and conscious of when to make that choice. So many times the options are right before me and I will not realize it and unconsciously go with the wrong choice. I think that needs to improve for me. And so is the case with many people I would imagine.

    How do I get this to work for myself? To realize that I have a better choice? Thank you.

  • Mignon C

    February 20th, 2013 at 3:54 AM

    This is all well and good when you are in a calm and rational state of mind, but think about how difficult it is to make sane choices when you are in a little fit of anger and stress and the best is not necessarily coming out in you! That’s when it is hard to make those decisions that internally you know will make the most sense for you mentally and physically. Sometimes you atill feel the need to act on that frustration in a way that will not necessarily be the healthiest for you. I would like to say that I can always take a calming deep breath and step away from the situation to relieve my stress a little, but I don’t think that life always gives you the opportunity to do that.

  • eric

    February 20th, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    I have a good friend who adopted a little girl that has a lot of developmental issues. She loves her little girl and would go to the ends of the earth to help her. But, it is a very stressful situation. The little girl often gets very anxious and cries when faced with separation from her mom. She is also very impulsive and becomes very upset when she doesn’t get what she wants. My heart goes out to my friend b/c of the stress she is under. Not only is it hard in terms of behavior management, but it’s also stressful in terms of being under pressure to find the right treatment for her.

  • Johnna Y

    February 20th, 2013 at 10:02 AM

    Having pets is definitely good for stress management. I recently made an international move. It was a huge hassle to get my two cats over here. But, man, I have no idea what shape I’d be in without them being here. I am a huge homebody and there’s no place I’d rather be than home. So, ripping me out of that comfort zone was nothing short of monumental. Having my cats here with me (including the one who loves to sit on the keyboard so that I cannot type) has been instrumental in getting me through these last six months.

  • Sophie

    February 20th, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    NOT making the choice to try to improve your day and your life is just as much of a choice as choosing to set things right. So you can’t blame anyone but yourself if you indeed choose to remain down and out. Yes, there are certain things that can never be changed, but I have a feeling that for most of us we have more dynamic things that we CAN change, but most people choose instead to be lazy and continue to blame their present on their past.

  • Kaleb

    February 20th, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    Handling stress for me has been a battle since my college days. Without even realizing what I was doing, I started stress eating. I can even remember the night it all started. I’ve waged war with this thing over the years. I can’t say I’ve won entirely, but I have certainly made progress.

  • Jane

    February 20th, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    Exercise is my go to stress reliever. Works every time.

  • Mal

    February 20th, 2013 at 10:07 AM

    Jane, I am similar. As long as I can ge to a basketball and basketball net, I’m good to go. Even when I’m stressed at work, I can hold it together as long as I know there is a little round ball in my future.

  • Eoin

    February 20th, 2013 at 11:50 PM

    never easy to move ahead when there is that familiar stumbling block in the way.But to develop and use things and techniques that will help you overcome that is the key.I tend to think of different ways to deal with different life problems.And although the things I do can be the same at times it is different more often than not,.What this also does is that it helps me get my thinking process going and that really helps me stay connected with myself and helps me get to know myself even better.

  • Maya

    February 21st, 2013 at 5:50 AM

    I hate it that I allow those feelings of stress to so overwhelm me sometimes that I forget what the joy of life and living is really all about!!

  • dylan

    February 21st, 2013 at 11:10 PM

    having a disability itself wouldn’t hurt me a lot.but if I had to depend upon someone for something that would get to me.always independent I sometimes dread even the thoughts of being dependent upon others.I can imagine the same feeling might resonate in those with disabilities.and they can definitely do with coping techniques that work for them.

  • BliX

    February 22nd, 2013 at 3:49 AM

    Well, the way I see it is that there are going to be those optimistic people who always see the glass as half full who will be able to do this while our perpetual pessimists are going to struggle with being told that they have the power to change things and make choices as to how their lives go. Most people who are naturally negative, they will not feel like they have the power to change anything like this in their lives by simply looking at their choices. They feel like the world at large is aganst them and that their control is very minimal.

  • fred

    February 22nd, 2013 at 11:10 PM

    sometimes I think of life as a game..there are choices I need to make and they will determine the outcome..it can get interesting for me when i follow this.it does not necessarily downgrade the importance of life events but just puts in that fun element when things can be so routine and uninteresting.

  • EmotionFocused

    February 23rd, 2013 at 8:41 PM

    There are even some more steps that we can take now to deal with the stress in your life. I hope This the most dangerous stress of our life Meditation, deep breathing exercises and listening to music can help you relax and reduce the level of stress you are now facing. Yoga, walking, running and daily workouts will help you regain control and find an inner balance.

  • VD

    February 23rd, 2013 at 9:49 PM

    Making these right choices requires a strong resolve and an even stronger mind.I tend to not be able to do so because well I don’t think I am strong minded.I cannot set my mind on something for too long.I need help in this and would be great if you could offer some tips.

  • Anita

    February 24th, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    Great article. Thank-you Luann for the encouragement. The reminder that it is just one decision at a time that changes the course of the day helps make it doable!

  • Nash

    February 24th, 2013 at 8:42 PM

    Thank you for this reminder. living with a parent with disability I always felt sorry for her. But you opened my eyes to the fact that a disability does not mean one does not have a choice. yes we all have choices, even with a disability. It just makes me feel so much better of my mom. kudos.

  • rhett

    February 25th, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    sometimes just realizing that we do still have a say in many of the things in our lives where we one time felt at a loss to control is a great start. You will not always be able to change everything but you can get some control over others by just taking a hard look at the situation and making the right choice. Sometimes it literally just all boils down to you.

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