Stress Management – The Agony and the Ecstasy

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Stress Management can be frustrating when we keep repeating the same patterns. We can spend years with the same old situation recurring in our lives. We make ourselves suffer.

We have patterns. Ten years ago we were stressed out by creditors. Today we’re still stressed out by creditors.

Or perhaps the pattern is impossible deadlines. We’ve been buried under different deadlines for years. You might wonder if stress management means nothing but techniques on how to cope with being miserable.

Have you ever had a chance to stand back and take a wider, longer term view of how you expend your attention and energy.

Perhaps repeating patterns mean that we get some kind of “juice” out of the stressful situations. Subconsciously we might be enjoying the thrill of the hunt — even if we’re the ones being hunted.

There is a certain thrill involved with heroically pulling off a miracle and averting disaster at the last minute. We can get an emotional rush from the challenge of diverting impending doom.

Will stress management do any good in this kind of situation? Perhaps we can get relief by stepping back and seeing what we’ve been doing. These patterns keep repeating themselves for a reason.

The first step is to notice that there is a pattern. Sometimes it helps to write down a description of your current stress challenge. You can simply keep writing whatever comes to mind. Writing like this clears out the mental cobwebs and brings mental clarity.

After you’ve written a bit, you can write about other times when you’ve had a similar stress management challenge.

If you do this for a while, you’ll start noticing a pattern. Are you always in a rush to get things done with a nearly impossible deadline? Are you pressed by impending financial doom?

Once you see the pattern you’re in a better position to do something about it.

The surprising thing is that we get a certain thrill out of the whole stressful situation. There is some sort of hidden advantage, or possibly many hidden advantages to the stress.

Perhaps the “uncomfortable” feelings make us feel alive. Perhaps there is the thrill of the adventure.

Perhaps the struggle is an excuse for avoiding responsibility for following up on our life mission. Stress management can go way beyond the level of living in spite of our misery. Once we go beyond the bottom level of living on the edge, we can go to a much larger plateau of excitement.

You might say that you’re advancing to a higher quality problem. Instead of skating on the edges of disaster, you could have the thrill of the challenge of pulling off some huge project.

Perhaps you remember …

College Term Papers

My professors liked to make term papers due on the first day after a holiday break. My pattern was to procrastinate as much as possible. The result was a total lack of enjoyment over the entire vacation. There was the illusion that “I’m going to work on it today.” But I would keep procrastinating.

The vacation was miserable. I turned down social opportunities and felt stressed because of the task at hand. This finally resulted in an all night struggle just before the deadline. And there was a greatly compromised result.

However, there was a fellow student named Dave Klattman. He always did his college projects immediately — he turned them in before the start of vacation. He actually got to enjoy his vacations!

Now there is true stress management.

And he graduated with honors. My guess is that he’s enjoyed a pretty stress free life.

What does this mean?

A powerful stress management tool is to step back and find patterns. Just sit down and be the observer of these patterns in your life.

Do you get some kind of thrill with the challenge?

Are you preventing yourself from doing things that would stretch your limits?

Once you see the patterns you can let them go. You can get things done early. That way you’ll have a lot of free time to enjoy the goodies that life had to offer.

You can be your own stress management expert.

Copyright 2006 by Jim Kitzmiller