I talk a lot about stress here, because it really is a key contributor to how we feel. When we feel more stress, we hurt more, we are more fatigued, we generally feel worse. But, part of the problem with those of us with Fibromyalgia and other other chronic illnesses is that our stress meter is constantly turned up, causing us to feel more stress when often no stress is there. We sense things as stressful that shouldn’t be, we take things too personal activating more stress.
Honestly, I’ve realized in the last few years that there are several actions that I am guilty of that actually contribute to my stress. Because of that, I am making and have made a concerted effort to change my own behaviors, and the way that I perceive things. Here are a few of those actions that I’m making an effort to stop.
1. Stop taking things so personally – when we are wired up on stress, everything becomes personal. Every little comment is taken as a personal attack. We read more into a comment than is really there and rather than someone having to purposely push our buttons, they seem to do it with every comment and every action. The reality is that it’s not all about me. Most of the time the person making the comments didn’t even have me in mind and meant absolutely nothing by their comment. I just took it personally when nothing personal was there. Honestly, I’ve ruined a few friendships by simply taking things personally that weren’t meant that way.
2. Stop being a victim – I think sometimes we do this because we want attention and sometimes we do this just because we get so hung up on the negative in life that we focus on that to the point that we start to feel like the world is out to get us. The world is not out to get me! I think very few people do this intentionally, but when we get hung up on the negative we tend to land in victimhood. We get focused on all the things that go wrong and start to really believe that people are intentionally doing things to make our life difficult. It’s not true.
3. Stop focusing on the negative – It’s too easy sometimes to simply focus on the negative. The only way to really break this cycle is to start realizing how focused you are on the negative and make an effort to see the positive. My psychologist had me simply make a note of each negative thought that I had (including all the “shoulds”). Just doing this helped me cut back on the negative thinking and start turning those negative thoughts into realistic or positive thoughts.
4. Stop being ungrateful – Gratitude is highly under-rated and it’s really one of the best ways to get yourself to stop being negative. When you find yourself focused on something negative, force yourself to think about something you are thankful for in that moment. There are too many things to be thankful for and we should never discount that. In the depths of my despair, however, I found many times when I would do just that. I’d stop to think about what I was (or should be) thankful for and I’d find myself discounting every item I came up. We can’t do that. When we really think about what we have to be grateful for, we can’t be negative.
5. Stop letting your emotions control your life – We have to learn to control our emotions rather than allow them to control us. Often this means getting help. I remember years back (back before I was diagnosed). I came home pissed off at the world. I went into a drawer in the kitchen to get a utensil to cook with and it was so full that it got stuck. I threw a fit (literally) and pulled every item out of the drawer and threw it on the floor, all while crying from frustration. I was hurting mentally and physically and it was being displayed in this tantrum. I needed help to get a handle on it. It’s hard to control your emotions when you are hurting, but we have to learn to do that so that we don’t take our pain out on others. We can’t let our emotions control our lives and dictate our actions, rather we have to learn to control our emotions.
6. Stop looking for outside validation – I struggle so much with this. We all want praise, we all want to be recognized for our accomplishments. But, outside validation only lasts in that moment and then we need more. When we can validate ourselves and pat ourselves on the back, acknowledge our own accomplishments, then we can be really happy long-term.
7. Stop being mean to yourself – If someone else said the things out loud to us that we say to ourselves inside our own heads we’d smack them. Yet, we say things to ourselves that we’d never say to someone else, let alone let them say to us. It’s time to start being kind to yourself, say nice things. When you catch yourself speaking negatively inside your head, stop, think, and then say something kind instead.
Every single one of these actions adds to your stress. Every single one of these actions that you stop, decreases your stress and allows you to heal both mentally and physically. If we want to turn off the stress response we have to start with things we can control, and there’s nothing we can control more than our own minds and actions.