The difference between being an optimist and a pessimist is the way we interpret the situation. A pessimist looks at the situation and believes that this is permanent and pervasive. An optimist looks at the same situation and sees it as temporary and fixable.
A pessimist believes the situation will last forever and will affect everything else in their life and an optimist asks themselves, “Will this thing be that important five years from now, or even next month?” If the answer is yes – then deal with it, if the answer is no – and most of the time it is no – let it go.
Most of the time when stress leads to an outburst it is because the event that has just occurred seems so important and “unfix-able” at the moment. When in fact, most likely there is a solution, and it is not likely that it is really worth fighting about or for. Since stress and the reaction to it is a factor in anger management, we must learn these thinking tips for dealing with them as they come up. Put the stressor into a time perspective.
Take that deep breath or the time out and then put words to your feelings. Decide if this is a permanent or a temporary setback. Decide if it is fixable or even ours to fix. If we are not able to find a calmness, it may be we are attached to a result or we are not getting something that we really want to happen or the way we want someone to be. Is it possible that the change is just not happening in the time frame we wanted it to happen? Can we be optimistic about it happening in the future if we chose to?
Helen Keller is quoted as saying, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” When we are feeling angry some of our needs are not getting met, or our situation is not going the way that we had hoped that it would go. After asking ourselves the question of focus, “In the grand scheme of things how important is this issue?”, we may have to admit that we need to look for some help.
It is in the overwhelmed feelings that we quickly go into a “fight, flight, or freeze” defense, resulting in those around us feeling the brunt of our actions. It might very well be though that the support we need is right there for us. We may only need to ask ourselves,
- What resources do I currently have to deal with?
- What resources do I need to develop to better cope with the stressor?
We will call this the “resource principle”. When there is a stressful event in your life, ask what resource do I currently have that may help me? If we just explode it is likely that we have not asked ourselves about our current resources.
If you are a parent or a teacher and your child or students are pushing some buttons for you, you may have forgotten your love for exercise, meditation or you may have forgotten that you have friends that might be able to help you see a solution. It could be you have a coach in your life to turn to, but have not done so out of feeling that you should be able to handle this yourself.
You may ask the second question, “What resource do I need to develop to better cope with this stressor?”. Do I need to ask for help? Do I need to improve a skill like assertive communication, humor, or not taking myself so seriously, to deal with this situation. Or we may combine “what will this matter in 3 years” with a new resource to be developed.
We may be stressed at work, and really the answer is just asking for the help we need from a co-worker, employer, or an adviser friend. Many times the help is right there if we can take a deep breath and see it and ask for it. Doing these things will take a lot of the power out of the stressor, resulting in the anger subsiding.
When someone in a close relationship with you seems to explode about something that you did not feel was that big of a deal, you may want to ask yourself, what else is going on for them. It most probably is not about you personally. Likely they are feeling stressed about something else going on in their life. In fact, stress is one of the most common triggers for anyone losing their feeling of peace and experiencing angry feelings and behaviors.
Think about a time when anyone of us has felt stress financially, and the affect it has on our spouse or partners. Think of a teen who is struggling in school and how they react to those close to them. Think of a young person who has lost a close family member in death, and the stress results in quick reactions to anything that is hurting them.
Some stress comes from the outside, like described above and some come from the inside of us, the things that we worry about. All of them result though in our brain responding with a “fight, flight, or freeze” defense. While those defenses may have been great in the days of cavemen, they typically do not serve us well in modern society. Learning to deal with stress will help us from letting things get out of hand resulting in angry aggression.
Here is one tip in reducing the stress. SHIFT YOUR FOCUS
Ask yourself some of these questions,
- In the grand scheme of things how important is this issue?
- In 3 months will this still be as big of an issue as it seems now? How about in 3 years?
- What is great about this situation?
Knowing what your priorities in life can be helpful in letting the small stuff go. Knowing what our core values are and what our personal mission and family mission comprise of will help us to focus on the big issues. Keeping our focus on what is really important allows us to over look comments and other events that could get us caught up in the moment, and focused on the small things.
Shift your focus is one step in reducing stress. Reducing stress is one step to anger management.
Both adults and children feel overwhelmed and stressed. From an adult point of view, we must remember that the feelings of stress are relative to the person feeling them. A child may be stressed over an event that an adult sees as nothing, but to the child it may feel like the whole world.
Stress is the direct result of feeling; there is too much to do, relationship issues, deadlines to meet and feeling like we have lost control of ourselves, our lives and sometimes even our feelings. The Balanced Life Skills way of teaching students is also the way a student learns to reach Black Belt Success.
The Balanced Life Skills Way goes like this:
Here is how this relates to reducing stress.
First you must know what you want / or what the problem is. Can you identify what you feel is wrong. When, Why and Where is it happening? What would you like to see happen that would make your life better? What is your goal?
Brainstorm some ideas of how to reach your goal. Your answers do not have to make sense to you right now and you do not have to think of the perfect plan now. Come up with many different ways that you believe you could solve the problem. If you cannot think of any, talk to your supporters (parents, teachers, friend, sibling) for their ideas and then get them written down. Now it is time to select a solution. You may want to have a ‘success coach’ as you weigh your different options, to help you stay on track. Pick one that you believe will help you reach your goal and that you are comfortable with.
Commit to working your plan and take consistent action. Persevere and do not give up. If you have a ‘success coach’ they can help guide you and keep you on the path you have chosen.
Review your progress. Is what you are trying working or not working? Do you need to tweak a part of it or try something new altogether? Has something changed for you, are the circumstances or end results the same as when you started on this path? Regularly checking in and then renewing and sometimes revising your goals will keep you feeling like you are in control of your life and the decisions being made that effect you.
Making decisions and choices about your life is a key part of reducing stress. Make the best decisions possible so that you stay on the path that will make you feel the best and result in the success you want out of your life.
The headline in the Washington Post read, “Student stress tied to rash of suicides…”. One parent that was interviewed stated that, “They are under too much pressure. It’s not all about how many AP classes you took.”
The stress and pressure so many students feel at the high school level comes from many different directions. They are encouraged strongly by advisers that they need to take AP classes. They are pushed by parents to do well in school and take on a multitude of extra-curricular activities from multiple sports to clubs and organizations – so they can get into a good school. They have the pressure from fellow students who look down on those not taking all the AP classes, as second class students. I personally have watched students be taunted for the schools that they received rejection letters from. Add to that the pressure these students put on themselves to live up to the expectations of so many others or themselves, and it is little wonder that they feel they are at the breaking point.
As a teacher or parent we want to be in tune with the resilience of a student. Are they optimistic? Do they demonstrate self control in all parts of their life? Do they take what they have for granted, feel entitled or do they appreciate the little and big things in their life? What level of empathy are they able to show to others? Are they drawn into conflict easily or do their skills for overcoming challenges demonstrate a high emotional IQ? Do they demonstrate day to day that they believe in a set of core values and see the big picture guided by those values?
Teens are not developmentally ready to take on the amount of stress our society is placing on them today. As a parent and teacher or school system, what can you do to relieve that stress? One of the most important things we can do as an adult is listen without judgement. We do not have to fix or tell them how to fix their issues. We must though, be aware of their thoughts, actions and feelings and be prepared to help them not feel so hopeless and helpless that they believe the only way out is to hurt themselves. We must also be prepared to guide them in coming up with solutions that work for them.
If they come up with the solutions, and we help them to believe in themselves – we will help them grow into adults who are optimistic, living by core values, for a purpose they determine and grateful the whole time for all they have in their life.
The struggle is on between parents and young adults. The struggle is about college. Not, should I go or not go to college. The struggle is debt or no debt, is this school the best for me, will I be able to get a job if I choose this school over that school.
Having 4 children myself and watching the results of many more going to school, getting out and working on using what they learned – one thing I do know is that the stress level prior to going to the school of your choice is greater than the stress of writing the papers and finishing the assignments the student gets after getting to the school of their choice.
My biggest concern is about the pressure that our students feel about getting in to a “good” school. Bottom line – Go to any company and you will see that those employed there come from a variety of colleges. While there may be a particular position in a particular company that might be more available to a student from a single school – people do not generally hire based on what school you went to. They hire on who you are, your attitude and skills.
The experience in college is simply what you make of it, what you do when you get there – no matter where you attend. Why is this important to understand.
Being stressed out is one of the risk factors that we see over and over again in youth suicide. Want to learn more of the risk factors and what you can do to protect the youth in your life?
Attend the QPR training on May 3 – 10 AM at Balanced Life Skills. Learn more here.