Stress Management

Initially, I thought I would write this column about how social media is a time thief.

Research shows that many adults spend at least an hour a day on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. This is in addition to time spent watching television.

Yet, many people claim they don’t have enough time to handle their responsibilities at home and at work. Time management could be the issue, but there are also people who are able to juggle a job, family, kids’ events and volunteer work, with little apparent stress. It looked like stress management was the secret. It’s not.

It helps if you understand the nature of stress. Psychologically, stress is an internal reaction to an external stimulus. I can’t stress you. I can be rude, but you make a subconscious or conscious decision if you’re really aware about the effect of my behavior on your life. It’s a matter of your awareness and choice.

Life is an endless series of decisions about how we’re going to deal with whatever comes our way. Early in life, once we’ve left home and are on our own, most decisions are relatively simple. There’s not much at stake.

Later, when we’re involved in a family or a job that consumes our life, the decisions may be more difficult. Some people find themselves in a bad relationship or a crummy job when they’re 50 years old. The chances are this was not unexpected. They probably felt it for some time but chose to ignore it, hoping things would get better.

Unfortunately, inherently bad situations seldom get better without someone taking action. What can you do to avoid finding yourself in such a condition? 

You can manage your time and minimize your stress effectively only if you know who and what you are and your purpose and goals in life. It’s called self-awareness.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow formulated a theory of needs in 1943. Starting at the lower levels are survival, safety and socialization, the upper levels include esteem and self-actualization. This fifth level is only achieved by a few because its price is quite high. 

Most of us settle for lower-level satisfactions around socialization and esteem. The people who know truly and completely who and what they are have a chance at self-actualization. The price often includes a certain amount of selfishness and extreme dedication to one’s goal. Just going to work every day is not a goal; it’s a job.

Creative people are often difficult to deal with because they won’t settle for less than their intermediate objectives and goal. Many great artists, performers and athletes show these characteristics.

This is because they are self-aware. They know what they want and what they’re willing to pay for it in terms of effort, pain and disapproval.

Make no mistake: They feel stress just like you and me. They are aware of but don’t succumb to the expectations of parents or friends. Many people have gotten married and immediately had a baby because their mom wanted to be a grandmother. Friends often want us to satisfy their needs, ignoring that we need to devote ourselves to fulfill our needs. 

Where self-actualized persons are different is that they don’t accept those stress-inducing stimulants. They’ve acknowledged the presence of those irritants or impediments and push them aside when they occur. They forge ahead accepting the price that may include loss of family and friends to some degree, poverty or physical pain.

In one sense, self-actualizers are like addicts. They are compelled to follow their bliss.So, what can we learn from this?

Don’t ignore the obvious or make excuses. Face the facts, good and bad. There may be things we don’t like in our lives. What are we willing to pay to get rid of them? If we can admit to ourselves that “this is who and what I am, and what I am willing to put up with and what I’m willing to pay the price to change,” then we will begin to manage stress. From there on, it will be obvious how we are going to spend our time. 

If we choose to give it to social media trivia or to watching “The Simpsons” or “Dancing With the Stars,” there is little chance we will have enough time to fulfill the higher needs.

 That’s OK It’s a choice. Once you make it and accept your level, you should do a better job of de-stressing yourself.