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Few things can throw your life out of balance like the spiraling effects of stress and fear.

Stress can dramatically affect our communication and relationships. How often have we heard those around us say, ?I?m just overwhelmed, stressed out and unfulfilled?? We can?t eliminate it. Realize, however, that you can alter the situation.

Jokingly, stress can be defined simply as the confusion created when the mind overrides the body?s desire to choke the life out of someone who desperately needs it.

Some people seem to thrive on stress. For them, being under stress is just having a good day.Unfortunately, we all don?t have the big ?S? (Superman or Superwoman) on our chests.

According to Michael Castleman, in an article he wrote for Prevention Magazine, ?Relationships that are under stress by the collision of work and the needs of the family don?t seem to get better by themselves. Communication and planning are essential ingredients in keeping things sane, but it?s difficult to achieve them when studies show that two-career couples may talk as little as fifteen minutes a day.?

One of the first signs of stress with working couples is less sex. With long stressed-out days, you can get to the point of just wanting to get through with dinner, drop in front of the TV and switch your brain into neutral until it wouldn?t be considered too early to put you and the kids to bed. With a loss of patience, sleeping problems, lack of a sense of humor, elevated alcohol or drug use, life can get to a point where it takes the wheels off your wagon?and life just isn?t any fun anymore.

Once stress and fear step in, anxiety is not far behind. Anxiety goes hand and glove with depression. Once these unwanted friends appear, there is a downward spiraling effect that could require medical attention to stop.

Brain scan research suggests that our minds do not know the difference between imagining and the real thing. Your mind reacts the same in both situations. If you start imagining something, your body gears up as if it were really happening. F.E.A.R. (false impressions appearing real), then anxiety (the root word for anxiety means to choke or strangle) kick in and you?re off and running with stress.

What should you do? Believe it or not, stress experts say, get busy re-establishing your relationships. By creating more quality human interactive connections you can rebalance your life. So, when the ?spit hits the fan,? we have a winning support team to back us up. Making small deposits of time and effort can produce instant rewards in stress reduction and elevating happiness.

A good way to start is to list those things that ?stress you out.? You probably didn?t know what makes your partner feel special and loved, so don?t be surprised when you realize that you don?t know what things cause your partner to be stressed out. Just knowing and responding to the things that cause stress is an instant wire deposit to a partner?s Love Bank Account. It could be simple things that never cause a spark with you, but your being five minutes late again could be devastating to your partner.

By the way, we decide who makes us angry. You don?t believe that? Think about it. One person could cut into your conversation and you would welcome it. Another person could drive you berserk by doing the very same thing. We do the same thing to those we say we love. We treat people the way we see them.

Z You will know when things improve, because you will
think of homicide instead of suicide.

Take the list of things that cause stress for you and divide it into two columns, one for things that you can?t do anything about and one for things that you can. Being able to really see and know what items you have no control over can reduce your stress level and reset your priorities toward those items that you may have more influence over. Now prioritize the list of stresses where you can make a difference. Compare your list with your partner?s. Try to combine your two lists into a family priority list. This will focus your energies on those things that most need your attention, and you?ll end up with more time for the things you both want to do.

For instance, if you have an opportunity to go to an evening seminar that would fulfill a requirement for a work promotion and your partner has made plans to go out to dinner with some old friends from out of town, what do you do? Who watches the kids? A quick check of the priority list shows your job and that promotion to be above social engagements. This process can reduce the stress in making those tough decisions.

One of the major players in elevating stress is that people are overdrawing on their biological sleep bank. Sleep deprivation causes accidents, lowers productivity and makes for grouchier folks. If you change your sleep pattern by even a few hours, your mood deteriorates. Many don?t know what it feels like to be wide awake, their old self, and in good humor again. In the 1800s people slept 9½ hours a day. In the 1980s it was 7½. Today, it?s down to 7 hours of sleep. Our bodies aren?t tricked.

The body is great at catching up on sleep debts. Having two good nights of sleep can recover moderate sleep debt. Many people sleep in or take naps on weekends.

You know when you?re getting enough sleep if you don?t nod off watching TV, sitting in church, driving your car, or need an alarm to wake you up, or sleep much later on your day off. A good sleep guide is to try spending an hour more in bed for a week. If you slip back to the number of hours you had been sleeping, you?re probably meeting your sleeping needs.

A constant stress load wears down your immune system, according to a University of Pittsburgh Medical School study by Dr. Theresa Whiteside. Those people with the most daily aggravation and stress on the studies? ?Hassles Index? have impaired immune cell activity (the body?s first line of defense) and experience more illnesses of all types. People with this low killer-cell activity are more angry and confused.

But a study conducted by Dr. Jonathan Brown from the University of Washington, Seattle, shows physical fitness can protect people from most of the health problems brought on by stress. Their exposure to life?s stresses had no noticeable effect on the health of those participants who had scored in the upper half on an aerobics test.

If nothing else, exercise can redirect your mind from stress and produce those wonderful endorphins in your body that make you feel better. This doesn?t? happen from the couch.
A good, healthy, stress-free life can also depend on good thoughts. If you are a born pessimist, constantly negative, and look at everything as black, then this situation feeds on itself and can poison you and your relationships. No one wants to be stuck living with a negative cartoon.
A study by University of Pennsylvania researcher

Gregory Buchannan revealed that those people who ranked within the top 25% as being most negative in a 10-year span had the highest death rate (26 of 31 died). By contrast, only 10 of the 31 who ranked as the most optimistic had died.

The purpose here is to raise your level of tolerance to stress in order to change your ?attitude,? to help you have more fun, and have a better quality of life. Worry only when it?s really time to worry. As Erma Bombeck said, ?I have elevated worrying to an art form.? (It?s not time to worry yet.) You?ll be less depressed and anxious.

Nugget: Recognize that stress can dramatically affect communication and relationships. Realize that you can alter the situation. Make a priority list of your ?stressors.? Combine them to get family priorities. Deal with those stressors where you can make the most difference. Recognize the stressors you have no control over. Get some sleep.

How: Get Busy. A little effort can produce noticeable changes in your attitude and level of enjoyment of life. Practice not being negative for five minutes. Keep doubling the time until you are a more positive optimistic person. It?s a habit you can change. You might live longer with the change.

Fire "Captain Bob"

This message was edited by captbob on 7-23-06 @ 7:58 PM

Very nice Capt. Bob!

Through a series of events, I had been out of the paid fire service until just this month (total of 8 months).

I was stressed to say the least.

I'm VERY lucky to have the wife I do, the family that I do, and friends that are second to none! Without THEM, I would be driving long haul truck, or something else that I know I wouldn't have been happy at in the long run.

To say I had some apprehension, fear, and just plain 'ol "mind games" going on in my head would be rather accurate as well.
So, I read a fair ammount, and came across this in "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff...and it's all small stuff" by Richard Carlson, PH.D.

A favorite quote from Mark Twain, pg 30:

"I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened."