Simple as it may seem, there can be great value in sitting down, perhaps with a piece of paper for taking notes, and asking yourself some questions: Why am I uptight and stressed out? What, specifically, is causing my stress? Is there anything I can do to tackle the problem? What would be my first step? Have I dealt with a similar situation in the past? If so, would the former solution work now? Suppose I can’t resolve this stress-producing problem, could I still go on living? Might I be creating the problem myself or at least be keeping it going because I’m getting some benefits from it (like sympathy, attention, and days home from work)?
Taking stock of your situation like this can help get your problem in perspective, and such review often brings new ideas for coping. If such a self-examination doesn’t work very well, try it with a friend, whose non-involvement may help you get a clearer picture of what is happening. Often a self-examination like this will lead you to a reexamination of your priorities. What is really important in life? Do we have to yield to every demand on our time?
First you must learn the most important word that can help you. It’s the word “no.” Sometimes we have to turn down an invitation or opportunity even though we would like to accept it. We must recognize that we will never accomplish everything that we hope to accomplish, so we should set some realistic goals, arrange them in priority, and go from there.
In an in-depth study of children, one researcher discovered that the youngsters would narrow the field and start working on their stresses one at a time. This is a good policy. Research shows that a single stress almost always takes priority over all others. It is best to work first on that which is most disturbing and move to the others later. Incidentally, this is a good guideline for tackling work – start first with the most unpleasant task, so that you get it over as quickly as possible.
It is important to realize that there may be some pressure-building responsibilities that you can get rid of. A friend of mine recently found himself in the hospital as the result of a general physical collapse. The doctor’s advice was concise: “Cut back on your activities. You’re trying to do everything and are wearing yourself out.” If you can’t keep your house clean and your garden productive, decide which has to go. If you feel pressure to read all the magazines which come into your house, cancel a subscription or two. If business is too hectic, hire some help or cut back before a heart attack does the job for you.