STEFAN KELLER — Special to the Southern News
Stress. We all have it. It’s kind of like that urge you get to dance to Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” when it comes on the radio. OK, maybe that is just me, but stress is something we all have in common. However, it is obvious that some of us are more stressed than others. Some of us are constantly carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders while others are stress-free most of the time. No matter where you fall on this scale, we are all looking for ways to reduce our stress.
Reducing our stress level may actually be easier than we think. I may not be a stress expert; no wait, I am definitely not a stress expert. But I think I have a way of looking at stress that may help you to reduce your stress level a small amount.
Picture this (yes, this is a “Golden Girls” reference); this being one of those big hammer games you see at the amusement park. I am talking about the ones where you have to swing the hammer and hit the machine as hard as you can so that the tower lights up all the way to the top. However, when thinking about stress, we are going to try and keep the light-bar meter as low as possible.
Take a typical day of your life. For this exercise, we are going to suppose that we all wake up in the morning with a clean slate. The first thing you do is go downstairs and look for your favorite cereal (add in the fact its 7 a.m. and you have a Rebecca Black song). However, you cannot find it. Pause here. Think about how you would react.
For some of us, that would be our first hammer swing, adding a few bars to our meter. As you are driving to school, someone cuts you off in traffic, adding another hammer swing. Then there is no parking in the parking garage and then you find out you have a huge test in class next week. Before you know it, you have swung your stress hammer 10 or 15 times in one day.
In all these instances, though, notice how I mentioned that you swung the hammer. The person that cut you off in traffic cannot swing it for you. The person that took the last spot in the parking garage cannot swing it for you. You are the one that swung the hammer and added stress to your stress meter. That person who cut you off in traffic that you are screaming expletives at is probably not going to hear you. Stressing about the test next week is not going to help you study or get you a better grade. So, once we realize this, how do we stop ourselves from being so stressed?
I think there are a few things we can do. For those little, one-time events, like a person cutting us off in traffic, we simply need to let it go. There is nothing we can do to change a past action, and there is nothing we can do to change it in the future either.
For those actions that can be changed in the future, it is about taking action. If you did poorly on an exam, that is in the past; you cannot change it. However, you can change how you prepare for your next exam. You can study more if you did not study. If you do not understand the material talk to your professor, get help at the tutorial center or ask a classmate. Many times stress simply causes us to be stressed over think things, and then miss taking the actions that will cause us to be less stressed. Being stressed about something will not make it less stressful; taking action will.
I know that this is not the easiest thing in the world to do, as it requires us to change our way of thinking, but we can try. When we realize you are getting stressed about something, stop and think about why that is. If it is something you can do nothing about, let it go. And if it is something you can change in the future, think about the actions you can take to change it. As you use this strategy more you will get better and better at it.
As I said, I am in no way a stress expert, but I know this strategy works for me and I think it can work for others as well. Just remember that those little things do add up, and even letting some of them go will mean less hammer swings and less bars on your stress meter. Most of us may not be able to win the hammer game at the amusement park, but there is no reason we cannot win the hammer game when it comes to stress management.