I have actively worked with stress related issues since 1989. I now believe that I have approached stress from the wrong direction. I believe we have treated symptoms instead of causes.

Stress is the result of something. It does not exist in a vacuum. It is how we live and metabolize our lives that causes the stress we experience. It is a combination of how we allow events and situations to affect us and how we respond to those events and situations – appropriately or inappropriately.

So, the solution is to concentrate on the causes not the effects of stress. That calls for behavior changes. That calls for developing better life management skills. If we change the behaviors that result in stress, if we develop the skills that lower or stop stress, then there is no stress to manage.

Many people who suffer from high levels of stress want quick fix solutions. When asked about changing how they live, they balk. Many like the adrenaline rush and excitement of a fast-paced life. Many know the importance of a healthy diet, regular exercise, planned relaxation, time off and the perils of anxiety and anger. However, they feel they just have to accept the stress they experience as the price to pay for the life they want.

The headlines of nearly every magazine in the rack at the checkout line of the grocery or discount store reads “10 ways to conquer stress.” When you read the articles or look at their quickie check lists, they all name the same approaches.

If the solution to stress is so common, why are so many of us stressed out? We want to “have our cake and eat it, too.” The irony is, we can, if we will make some trade-offs, exert some discipline and take responsibility for our beliefs and actions. But that is why so many fail. They do not want to make trade-offs. Discipline and responsibility are unwelcome words.

So, what is the solution? There is none for those unwilling to change and take responsibility for their current situation. There is a solution for those willing to look realistically at their current situation. They must identify what they want to experience and plan how to close the gap between the current reality and the desired state of expression.

The solution will probably involve changing the behaviors and attitudes that cause the current stress. It will likely include learning new coping skills, adjusting or dropping old response patterns, and, recognizing limits and making trade-offs. What is your choice?
Tim O’Brien writes continuing-education courses and presents seminars on stress management.

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