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September 13, 2013

Before I wrote this post, I did some research on what was being posted in the blog-sphere about how people dealing with stress should respond to stress. Here are three main topics I encountered on the issue, nutrition, sleep deprivation and exercise.

Yes it is true, your diet, the amount of sleep you get and your exercise habits are connected to your stress levels. More significantly, if I got information from a patient regarding his eating habits, how much sleep he receives and how often he gets to move around, I can take a pretty accurate guess regarding how much stress he experiences and how well he deals with his stress. However, poor diet, poor sleep and insufficient exercise are not causes of stress, they are symptoms of stress.

If that’s the case, then what causes stress? When you get into specifics, the causes of stress vary significantly from person to person, however there is a common theme for people who struggle with stress, and that is a failure to accept life on life’s terms. A simpler way to put this, is to state that people who struggle with stress are suffering the effects of habitually taking action on the misinformation they buy into.

For example, a common occurrence I notice with people who suffer from stress is that they are not getting enough done, usually this issue is two fold. Meaning, that they are not getting enough done at work and at home. They will usually go into a therapist’s office to discuss their issues with poor sleep and their desire to improve their sleep. In processing with them what thoughts habitually occupy their minds when they should be sleeping, what is revealed are worries about tasks they have not accomplished throughout the day and the day before.

My response is to have the patient document all tasks and chores that are waiting for him to accomplish, once this is done I then take a look at a day planner with him and ask him what gets in the way of accomplishing his tasks. This question usually leads to the revelation of the true source of the patient’s stress.

 Often times, that true source is a desire to live two lifestyles at the same time. Whether it is because people do not want to get rid of their old habits, or they have bought into some unrealistic expectations that they can merge two unrelated lifestyles together, the reality is this, with choices come sacrifices.
So often times when I look at a day planner with a patient, and quiz him on what he is doing with his time instead of honoring his declared commitments, the answer usually falls in line with engaging in other, more pleasurable activities not related to the desired goal. It’s like the college student, who struggles to set aside his game console and do homework, or the marijuana user who ignores the warning signs of a opportunities passing him by as he often procrastinates while high. In my previous post, I discuss addiction as a reoccurring effect of prolonged stress.
The truth is this, there exists no problems we can not address as people. Some problems by the very nature of their potential consequences frighten us, and the knee jerk response is to go into denial, which leads to a repetition of the same behaviors that helped to create the problem.
Healthy nutrition, improved sleep and routine exercises all help to alleviate symptoms of stress, however the true source stress lies in the courage to exercise naked honesty with oneself. When we accept circumstances as they present themselves, we can surprise ourselves in our ability to cone up with solutions.
In my upcoming ebook on stress management, I go into depth on several specific examples of how I have helped people accept their truths and solve specific problems in their lives.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC, a professional counseling and life coaching practice.

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