I steadied myself and vowed not to let it get to me this time. I walked into the room and felt the tension swell up in my chest, tightening my shoulders and exploding into my head. The culprit; my ten year-old daughter’s room.
“I love you, God bless you and may the angels sing you to sleep…..and if you don’t get this room cleaned up tomorrow, everything will be gone when you get home from school!” I threatened, through my gritted teeth.
Stress can be caused from something as seemingly unimportant (such as my daughter’s messy room) or from significant happenings in our lives. Some of us react to every little thing, while others can handle most things well, until one thing tips us over the edge. Whatever its cause, all of us are effected by stress at some point or another. In fact, 75%-90% of all physician office visits are for stress-related complaints.
In my roles as a social worker, family coach and mom of seven I have seen families in all kinds of stressful situations. As I studied this more carefully, I discovered that people who are able to manage stress have a secret weapon.
The Secret Weapon
John Walsh is a good example of this secret. His son, Adam, was abducted and killed. I can’t imagine a more stressful situation than that. Grief and anger are huge stressors. Many people would have gotten stuck, unable to continue their lives in a positive way. John Walsh made a different choice. He decided to act.
Identify the Need for Change
Studying a stressful situation may provide details and ideas for change.
John Walsh identified the need for a change in the way abductions were reported and tracked. He became responsible for a grass-roots effort to create a national data bank of information. He has since been responsible for catching criminals on his television show, America’s Most Wanted, and for advocating safety programs to provide families with information on how to protect their own children.
In the case of my daughter’s room, well, she needed a new system of organization. I realized that if I was stressed and intimidated by the mess, so was she.
Keeping a small journal of things that cause stress can reveal patterns of the things that trigger a stress response. That may make it easier to spot the need for change.
Once a need has been diagnosed, turning stress from inaction into action is the key. Almost all of us have had the experience of feeling so stressed that we are confused and immobilized. Where do we start? How do we do something, anything…to feel better? The answer; jump in and do something.
I started by ripping apart my daughter’s room and giving it a fresh coat of paint. Once that was done, I went through her clothes and gave things she no longer needed away. I enlisted my husband’s help, and we decided to give her room a theme. My husband created a small stage in the room and hung track lighting as a spotlight. I hung long curtains around the stage and soon we had a beautiful room. Now that it was cleaned, organized and a fun space, our daughter found it much easier to keep her room tidy.
We all slip. If I left my daughter’s room alone for to long, it would get overwhelming again quickly. Frequent checks, a little help and a positive attitude helps my daughter and I stay away from a situation that had become stressful for both of us.
This is true for all kinds of stressful situations. It is simple to go back to working too many hours, taking on too many projects, trying to manage our families schedules and problems. It is important to review stressors and management of those problems on a regular basis.
Give Yourself a Break
As a friend of mine once said, “Sometimes, you just have to close the door.” This applies to messy rooms, situations of intense grief or work problems. It is healthy to give ourselves permission to just forget about the stress in our lives for a while. It will still be there when we turn our attention back to it. Taking a fresh look at, after taking a break, may provide new insights to the problems and patterns that caused that stress.
Creating on ongoing plan.
When dealing with stress, it is helpful to look at all aspects of our coping skills. Are we caring for ourselves physically, spiritually, behaviorally and emotionally? Looking at each of these areas and making a plan of action can help dramatically decrease our stress.