It 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, therapist in Denver, Colorado
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