Everyone understands what it means to feel stress. And
sadly, many know all too well what it means to be overly stressed in their
daily lives. It’s certainly not a healthy thing, but how often do you consider
what it does to your quality of life?
Generally, you find yourself stressed from too many
commitments to others or yourself. You start juggling things to meet external
or internal demands that become increasingly oppressive. Yet, sometimes people
don’t realize they can re-negotiate the conditions of their lives to reduce all
this stress. Instead, they often find themselves trying to find ways to
increase the time needed to meet the growing demands, which can only come from
decreasing the time for pleasurable and relaxing activities (the very things that
can lower stress). That’s all it takes to start finding oneself caught in a
stress-trap that can spiral out of control and feel repressive.
Trying to meet excessive demands coming from within oneself
or others affects the choices people make for how they think and behave. To
meet ever-increasing external demands, people sometimes add more and more tasks
to their schedule, at great personal expense. Not infrequently, this leads to
feelings of resentment toward the source of the demands rather than learning to
set limits or asking others for help.
Striving to meet one’s own inner expectations can be as
exhausting as meeting external ones. Often people hold standards for themselves
to which they would never hold others. This striving for perfection can lead to
feelings of self-criticism and guilt. Some people believe they must always
appear a certain way—perhaps cheerful, wise or clever, making it difficult to
accept the very human tendency to sometimes feel or be quite different.Trying
to keep up with increasing levels of daily tasks while too stressed, or to
remain inwardly self-confidant when in the grips of a tyrannical inner voice
can lead to endless cycles of self-recrimination, futile efforts to improve,
exhaustion, and feelings of powerlessness.
When one is too
stressed, and is progressively limiting life’s naturally de-stressing
activities instead of learning to set limits or feel less self-critical, one
feels a loss of joyful living. Stress can have even worse effects than that. In
some instances, it can be associated with anxiety, depression, addictive
behaviors, physical disease, or unsuccessful or unrewarding interpersonal
It is possible to get one’s life into better balance and to
find ways to live a more satisfying life. Sometimes overly stressed people are
on such a self-reinforcing treadmill of inner and outer demands, that they
don’t even realize that things could be different, that is is possible to meet life's demands with a sense of equanimity.
This is where psychotherapy
can be helpful. It is a process in which people can examine the aspects of their
lives that feel demanding, frantic or unsatisfying. They can discover ways to re-order their lives to make more effective choices, learn to meet life's stresses with improved coping skills and develop what is needed to live a more valued life.
Kathi Whitten, LCSW Copyright 2007