Pretty much every mom I know deals with stress on a daily basis. I'm not sure why, but most of the men I know don't seem too! I'm not sure if it's the way they process things that they just don't put too much thought into what they can't fix. When a friend told me about The Stress R.E.L.I.E.F Method I was really anxious to read it. I have to admit that I let everything get to me from the big things all the way down to the little bitty things that most people don't pay a second thought too. One of the first things that touched me in this book was the definition of stress. The definition of stress is "your body's response to a specific situation or an accumulation of the situations we experience.” We all respond to situations, but it boils down to how we respond! We need to learn to take action, but it's got to be simple because the more complicated it is the less chance there is of us completing it! One of the quotes that really hit close to home for me was “We become so used to numbing our pain that we completely stop listening to our bodies” I had to stop and think long and hard about that statement. Do I ever listen to my body and when I do can I understand what it is telling me?
As I was staring to read this book I think what I read on pg. 12 opened my mind the most!
I used to be a woman who was tossed around by her
challenges. My mood used to be a reflection of my
circumstances. Every little thing stressed me out. I
thought I had every reason (or excuse) to be stressed
out. From being in a new country with not much
support, to raising children with medical and
developmental needs, to being a single mom after
working so hard to maintain a hard marriage for a
decade. I thought I had the right to be stressed out.
I thought it was normal for me to be stressed then I
learned that my circumstances do not have to control
my mood, my emotions, and the rest of my life. I
learned that I had control over how I felt about the
things that were happening to me. I learned that life
will keep happening, but I can do something about
maintaining my peace and my joy.
That spoke directly to me and basically how I have lived my life. It was time for me to open my eyes and figure out a new way to deal with life! The author, Chou Hallegra, was no stranger to harsh circumstances. She'd had health issues, marriage issues and pretty much all the same issues we all have. She decided it was time to take charge and that's how the Stress R.E.L.I.E.F Method was started. This method has 6 steps that will help you create a life of LESS stress. Isn't that what we all want?? I've always thought of stress as a NEGATIVE concept and one that I didn't want in my life. Stress can be POSITIVE when you think about certain circumstances. If your child walks into the road and you are telling them to come back to you because you see a car coming that is stressful. If they immediately listen and come back and no harm has come to them then that stress was ultimately good. I don't think we think about stress is a positive way and there fore it beats us down further than we already might be. I know I personally had never though about stress in anything, but a negative way.
There are three types of stress that we encounter. Acute stress is the most common. Acute stress is the immediate reaction to a new challenge. We face many new challenges a day, but often they are quickly taken care of and that stress shouldn't continue on long-term. We have all encountered acute stress in our lives. Chronic stress is very intense and long-term. If you've had severe health struggles or financial troubles that have plagued your life for years you have dealt with chronic stress. Even though this type of stress is long-term we still can all respond to it differently. How I might respond to financial issues might not be the way another would. How we respond dictates the stress that we have. Episodic stress is in the middle of these two and happens on a daily basis. This might be something you deal with when your child is medically fragile and in the hospital.
So what is The Stress R.E.L.I.E.F Method??
The Stress R.E.L.I.E.F. method is a step-by-step
guide that was created by Chou Hallegra. She based this method on the principles of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Person-Centered Thinking. Person-Centered Thinking is a set of tools, skills and values that give people control of their lives. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy helps us to understand that our feelings determine our behaviors. In order to deal with stress effectively we must understand our feelings and deal with them accordingly. The 6 steps are as follows:
1. Reflect on your stress level
2. Evaluate your stressors
3. Leverage your strengths
4. Initiate self-care
5. Examine your level of control
6. Find freedom
We can't see how our stress level changes unless we know where it started. There are many factors that cause us stress including:
As we figure out how each of these affects us we can then start to see progress. We started off taking a perceived stress test. It ranked us into the category of how stressed we currently are. I, of course, was maxed out in the stress level!! We can't measure what we can't identify and we can't track it if we can't measure it. It all starts here with our stress level!
We next have to evaluate our stressors. Most of us probably know what causes us stress, but do we really stop and think about how we can change those stressors? I might not have control over situations, but I can control my reactions. My children could make a decision that hurts them and I don't like it, but I can control how I respond to that situation. The busier we are the more likely we are to deal with stress. We need to do things because we want to and not because we feel we should. Often times we agree to do something just because we feel we should. That later causes us to feel stress. Often times there are people in our lives that cause us to have more stress. We might be tempted to just stay away from them, but often times we just need a temporary distance and the friendship can continue. I learned that I often contribute to my own stress level based on my reactions. All this time of thinking I can't control something, but I really could control my response and that could have lowered the stress level. Our thoughts are a huge factor in our stress levels. The actions reinforce the thought, the emotions are linked to the thoughts, the stress is linked to the thoughts and we are the only one that can control our thoughts. How many times have I told one of my children that he/she is responsible for his own behavior. Was I listening to that? Yes and no, but not in the sense that it directly was attached to my stress level. It's amazing how reading this book has opened my eyes in such a way that I just can't believe I didn't see it before.
We have to learn to leverage our strengths. The things we enjoy and are good at is what we should agree to help other do. If I am terrible in spelling and grammar, which I am, then I shouldn't agree to proof someones paper because I'm just going to be frustrated. Since I enjoy baking I should always agree to help in a bake sale or with a potluck. By using our strengths to guide our way our stress level will be reduced.
How many moms will tell you they don't have time to do fun things for themselves? If we don't initiate self-care then we aren't able to help others. When you are flying in an airplane they tell you if the oxygen masks come out to use yours first and then help a child. If you help your child first then you don't have anything left. We have to learn that it's OK to take time for ourselves. It doesn't have to be hours and hours each day. We can read a book for a few minutes, take a short bath, enjoy a call with a friend, take a short walk, etc.
The next to the last step is to examine the level of control you have. I know many people that believe they can control it all where I tend to be on the complete opposite side of the spectrum and think I can't control anything. The difference in these two types of thinking is called "locus of control" and was created in 1954 by Julian Rotter. People that have this inner locus of control believe they are in charge of their destiny and that they control their lives. People with an external locus of control believe that what happens will happen and it's not in their ability to control it. We might not always be able to control every situation, but again it goes back to how we response. That controls the stress.
The final step is to find lasting freedom. If the stress in your life is cyclical, which I believe mine is, then we need to break that cycle and find freedom! We have to learn to apply these steps every single day otherwise these fires will continue. We have to learn to change our thoughts and it will greatly reduce the stress in our lives.
There are quite a few worksheets spread throughout this book that I thought were very helpful. Knowing my stress level gave me a good starting place. I learned that my character trait is humility. I wrote down some of my triggers and and really learned that I have to change my thought process. I can control my emotions and I just haven't been doing it. I've been going through life thinking I couldn't control the things that stress me and that might be true, but I could control how I reacted to them.
I have really enjoyed reading The Stress R.E.L.I.E.F. Method by Chou Hallegra. She's very transparent in her book and I like that because when I see that others can relate to me I'm more open to what they have to say. I'm excited to try these techniques and see how much it lowers my stress level!
**I received a free copy of this book from Chou Hallegra for my honest opinion."