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 relationships.
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. This is where
psychotherapy can be helpful. It is a process in which people can
examine the parts of their lives that feel lacking or unsatisfying with
an aim toward finding ways to make some changes in whatever parts of
one’s life are holding one back from being able to find more pleasure
and positive involvement with significant others.
Kathi Whitten, LCSW Copyright 2007