There are foundations in everything we do. Foundations in construction, parenting, communication, business. Same is true for stress management. When we gloss over or completely bypass the foundation phase of a process, eventually things come crashing down like a house of cards. Same is true for stress management.
To ensure you have the basics in stress management, let's review three of the foundational elements.
Research shows that the more control we have over outcomes the less stress we experience. We are not talking about micromanaging or having controlling tendencies, but about the influence, engagement, empowerment, and intention we have over our own destiny. When we can participate in sculpting our own outcomes, our brain interprets that as having choice and freedom, which keeps our stress response low.
Owner doctors, for example, have a job satisfaction rating of 57% and a self-proclaimed stress level of 8.4 on a 10-point scale, according to ADA's 2003 Dentist Well-Being Survey of more than 2,500 dentists. Associate doctors or junior partners have a 65% job dissatisfaction rating and stress level of 9.5, according to the same report. The variable is how much control each doctor has in his or her daily life. The less choice, the more frustration, and the stress piles on.
Consistency has a significant impact on our stress response. The more our lives are scheduled with predictable and predetermined events, the fewer life change units we go through. For each situational change, our stress response is triggered and jolts our body aware by flooding our bloodstream with cortisol and adrenaline. Too much change and our stress cycle quickly turns chronic, having catastrophic effects on our body and systems.
Think about your reaction when your schedule falls apart. How about when your kid's sporting coach lets you know about weekend tournaments only days in advance. The roller coaster ride of inconsistency puts our stress cycle all out of whack, which we feel at the end of each day in the form of insomnia, exhaustion, and a number of other side effects of stress.
Stress is a biological and physiological reaction. To counteract the effects, you must do so at the cellular level. There is no better way to accomplish this than to stimulate the release of oxytocin, also known as the "cuddle hormone" or "love hormone." Socialization is a recommended coping method in any stress management program. The reason is because oxytocin levels increase when people interact. The oxytocin hormone is linked to building trust, bonds, and intimate interactions. As these levels go up, cortisol and other stress hormones decrease, resulting in fewer and decrease intensity of stress effects.
First, pick one of the foundational steps above and make it a focus. Ask yourself how you can be more in control of your own destiny? How you can create consistency in your day? How you can connect more regularly with others? Focus on one at a time until you have each one mastered. You'll then have a solid foundation to build your stress management program upon.
Jen Butler, MEd, certified professional coach (CPC), board-certified coach (BCC), has been working in the area of stress management and resiliency coaching for more than 20 years. To learn more about her services, programs, and the Jen Butler Practice Analysis, contact her at 623-776-6715 or email@example.com, or visit her website for more information.
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