The Stress Recovery Cycle
While the physiological response to stress takes only seconds, recovery to equilibrium requires about thirty minutes. Time is needed for:
- emotional release
- processing the event
- perhaps, physical rest
- return to schedule
- restoration of equilibrium.
Far too often the scenario is something like this: you awake a few minutes late, have children to get off to school, can’t find the car keys, have to cope with traffic driving to work, arrive late for work and can’t find a parking space. In the space of the first one hour of the day, you may have confronted six to twelve stressful events, with only a few minutes between them, not nearly enough time for restoration of equilibrium. And the day is only beginning.
When there are too many stressors back to back, your body never has a chance to through the recovery cycle. What is needed is a comprehensive plan for daily coping with stress.
There is no quick cure. A day off? A week off? Both may help, however, a better approach is to reduce the accumulation of overwhelming stress by becoming more stress-resistant. Identifying sources of stress helps, but it is more important to identify your own responses to stress and learn how to modify them.
|“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Developing a daily, coping plan takes time and energy and that sounds like additional stress, however, there are several simple steps you can try immediately while you examine and establish the longer-term daily coping plan. Learn to avoid, alter and accept.
Avoid–battles not worth fighting. Pick and choose wisely the issues that excite you, require extra time and energy, or endanger rapport of a relationship. Avoid also perfectionism. Pe
rfectionism is unattainable, frustrating and neurotic. It is characterized by the presence of “should,” “if only,” and “ought” in the vocabulary of self-talk. Unrealistic expectations of yourself endanger patients and yourself.
Many people, especially women, seek to be “all things to all people.” Thus, an inordinate amount of time or effort may be devoted to one project or situation when the person does not recognize this weakness within his/her own personality. Setting limits on yourself and communicating those limits is a healthy step toward ending the compulsion to be “all things to all people.”
Alter–attitude and self-talk. Maintaining a sense of humor and positive attitude is essential and attainable. Learn to view stress as an enabler that provides energy to finish a project, the impetus to seek answers to a problem, the power to champion a cause. You remember the words you tell yourself far longer than those someone tells you. Learn to exchange negative self-talk for positive. Make a list right now of the ten accomplishments in your life or in the past year that mean the most to you. Haven’t taken a “sick day” in months? Give yourself credit for it. Are you a loyal friend who would drop everything to help out? Include that. When the list is finished, keep it and read it daily. Perhaps a spouse or trusted friend could write you a letter outlining all that you mean to them, the qualities they admire and respect in you. Read it daily, too.
Cultivate your strengths. Recognize your talents as well as your limitations.