I’ve always disagreed with the majority of the stress management literature that promotes avoidance of stressors. Unfortunately in this world of uncertainty we cannot predict nor prevent many of the stressors we face, and furthermore we really don’t want to. We place ourselves in risky and challenging situations because that is how we grow and achieve.
“If you want to avoid stress then don’t go for that next promotion, or forget about starting that new business, don’t even think about writing that book.” See what I mean…avoidance of stress is not the answer.
In the Sep/Oct 2011 issue of Scientific American Mind there was an article “Fight the Frazzled Mind”. The author, Robert Epstein, referenced research that suggested the most effective way to manage stress was reducing, eliminating and avoiding sources of stress. Ok…that’s obvious. But effective doesn’t mean the best or most practical.
What I did like about the article is that it said “with the right training and preparation we might be able to face any stressor with equanimity.” It spoke about relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, visualization, muscle-relaxation and meditation as effective ways to lower blood pressure and make people feel immunized against stressors. The author also showed that managing thoughts was an important competency. Those that can reframe difficulties in a more positive light, or correct irrational beliefs will be more resilient.
Avoidance and prevention are good approaches when it’s needless stress, like what we bring on ourselves through procrastination or just doing stupid things. Clearly I’m not saying we should go looking for stress, but when it inevitably finds us we can still have equanimity. Manage your thoughts by looking for the silver lining and being realistically optimistic, and manage your body through relaxation techniques. The best methods allow you to live with high demands, but with peace.