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Coping With Stress - One Person's Viewpoint 
Started by eKIM
12 Nov 2013, 1:55 AM

 Coping With Stress - One Person's Viewpoint

 I am sharing this simply as a personal example of coping techniques that I use to help me deal with the potential of stress in my work as a hospice volunteer.  I do not presume for one minute that this is a prescription for success for anyone else.  However, if only one tiny bit of this helps only one person then, I am happy. 

 Although I am not a “churchgoer” I am a very spiritual person.  My faith is the biggest factor in my “coping techniques”.  Because this is such a personal and individual matter, I will not address it here.


I find that the most important thing for me is to focus on those things that will lead me from a negative state of mind, to a positive state of mind.  I have made a list (shared here) that lays out my most effective coping mechanisms. 

 Just as I would apply direct pressure to a cut, at the first sign of stress, I take immediate action. I go through my list of coping mechanisms and I apply the technique that is most appropriate for the given moment.  The current situation that I find myself in will govern the particular method that I chose.



I look back and remember all the positive memories of my life.  Whenever a negative or sad memory pops up, I replace it with a positive, happy memory.  I remind myself that a) I cannot stop myself from thinking, b) I can only think of one thing at once.  c) holding a positive and a negative thought simultaneously is impossible and d) I can choose which thought to think.



I seek out those who support and uplift me.  Their love renews and restores me.  I avoid (as much as possible) those who make me sad or do not do a very good job of supporting and encouraging me.  By the way, although we at Virtual Hospice are merely Virtual Friends, concentrate on the “friend” part.  We listen, we care, and we share.  Anyone can (anonymously) speak from the heart without fear of being judged.


I talk to and confide in those people who want, only to listen, compassionately without offering platitudes and solutions that are not realistic.


I try as hard as I can to maintain a positive environment.  Whenever some “small stuff” surfaces, I immediately choose not to react in a negative manner. 


I journal.  Writing down my feelings is very cathartic and it really helps me find a release for pent up emotions.



Even something simple like short walk in the fresh air can be invigorating.


I read fiction to take my mind to another “place”.


I have a list of uplifting quotes that I have collected over the years.  I read them to boost my spirits.


I sing. You really have to try hard to feel sad while you sing a joyful song.


I listen to music, especially upbeat music.


If I am feeling sad, I try to discover happiness in small things.  It doesn’t matter that the objects or events are small.  What matters is that I find happiness in many of them, and often.  I have to work at this, but it is so worthwhile.  I make a concerted effort to keep my sense of humour intact.  I suppose it is an avoidance technique to prevent me from focusing on the “bad stuff”, but it works for me.


I find that feeling grateful for all the wonderful parts of my life is a great method of pulling myself out of an introspective funk. 


I meditate to quiet my mind.  I concentrate on “breathing in” and “breathing out”.


I use the following metaphor:  “I am lying in a beautiful tropical stream in total peace and harmony.  I notice several pieces of trash float by.  Instead of having a harsh reaction, I simply observe the trash float by.  Soon it is gone, and I resume my peaceful, attitude of living “in the moment.”


I work hard at learning how to be “mindful”, “in the moment” and “fully present” when I am with a resident or a family member.  I have done an extensive study of Eckhart Tole’s wonderful book “The Power of Now”. 


Just as mindfulness is important, so is mindlessness.  To combat the effects of stress, I will engage in mindless tasks such as, playing a video game, researching something on the internet, listening to comedians and other such activities.  I find that when I lose myself in a mindless activity, I don’t think about the events that have caused me to feel stress.



We have a big, furry, delightful bundle of unlimited and unconditional love – his name is Kaiser, and yes, he’s a dog.  If I am in a negative mood, simply putting my arms around his neck and burying my face in his fur helps a lot to change my mood for the better.  Dogs somehow can sense a “hurtin’ soul” and are great at being by your side until you feel better.  I think that if I didn’t have a dog, I would borrow a friends dog, or just visit some dogs at a shelter.



I recognize that a lot of the “stuff” that bothered me in the past, now does not bother me at all. 



I find that being in the presence of people who make a “big deal” out of nothing, wears me down.  I spend as little time as possible with them.


When I am in a “negative and/or stressed” mood, I try the following technique to boost my spirits and put me back into a positive frame of mind/spirit:  I do something nice for someone.  Then, I think about it a lot.  This raises my self-esteem and elevates my mood by making me concentrate on being “outward reaching” as opposed to “inward seeking”.  When the effect wears off, I take this as a sign to go out and do something nice for someone, all over again. 

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Reply by Razz
18 Nov 2013, 2:03 PM
All great suggestions eKim.  One thing that really helps me is to ask myself if what I'm stressed about is even "mine" to begin with.  When those we care about are upset about something we feel the need to "fix it" and yet in reality this is NOT OUR STUFF and most of the time beyond our ability to influence anyway.  I can be concerned yes, but can I do anything that will change the situation - no.  So then it becomes NOT MY STUFF.  There are enough things in life that are "MY STUFF" that taking on that of others is stress that we can avoid.  

A good example of this is when you have adult children.  They must live their own lives and we must honor them enough to allow them to learn from their own actions.  Sounds easy but it's not.  We may not like their choices, decisions, actions or any number of things as we "think" we can see where that will lead them.  We may be right or wrong in our predictions but the bottom line here is it's "NOT MY STUFF".  My fretting, worrying and staying up all night over these things does not change anything one bit except that it makes me feel horrible.  I have to learn to let go of such things.  I can encourage, I can support, I can even caution them on some things but I must then let go and not have any "emotional investment" in the outcome.  

Asking myself is this "MY STUFF" or is this "NOT MY STUFF" really helps to keep from being overwhelmned and totally stressed out.

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Reply by eKIM
19 Nov 2013, 11:16 PM

Hi Razz,

I love your example. I seem to have no trouble with implementing the ”MY STUFF”, or “NOT MY STUFF” philosophy.  I have heard the same philosophy describe in a different manner.  It goes like this:

Draw a very large circle with a very small circle in the centre of the large circle.  Between the two circles, make a bunch of dots with a pencil.  Each dot represents some big problem over which you have no control, i.e. war, crime, evil, “man’s inhumanity to man”, etc. etc.

In the small circle, place several dots.  Each dot represents something over which you have control.  i.e. your attitude, the way in which you treat those that you come in contact with each day, your own morals, etc. etc.

Spend as little time as possible concentrating on the items between the two circles, over which you have no control, and as much time as possible concentrating on those items within the small circle, over which you do have some control. 

You spend the same amount of energy, however, you lessen your stress and accomplish more.

I wish I had learned this “life lesson” many decades ago.

- eKim

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Reply by Razz
20 Nov 2013, 1:36 AM
ha, ha eKim - me too.  I spent years carrying around so much "STUFF" that is pushed me down to the size of one of your small "dots".  I think part of it comes from our upbringing where we are taught to "care for others" and that our own needs are put on the bottom of the priority list.  As long as it sits there nothing will improve your ability to deal with "stress".  That's because you are too busy helping others cope and deal with their stress you never really develop the skills to deal with your own.  

We encourage new Mom's to give their babies a chance to self-sooth and they usually manage to do just that.  I suppose we had that same kind of expeirence but it was soon lost in that long list of what a "good person" does.  We have to get back to "self soothing" and putting ourselves on top of the priority list or in the end we're no good to anyone.  

One other thing that I do that really helps me is to plan something each day to do that "lifts" me.  It may only be a 1/2 hr. but during that time I only do things that are just for me.  I usually plan something small for the end of the day so I have something to look forward to all day.  It seems to help me get through the day that way - knowing that I'll have that "special" time and will use it in any way I want.  (Truth be told however I often use it to sit and sip tea, nibble on something yummy and read).  

be good to you - Razz  
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Reply by Razz
20 Nov 2013, 1:39 AM
Oh, and I meant to add I also set aside a 1/2 hr. a day to practice/play my guitar and sing.  These are things you've already mentioned in your list.  I think the important difference is that we must MAKE A POINT of scheduling those things into our day or they are often overlooked.   

(wish I could figure out a way to edit my posts )

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Reply by eKIM
20 Nov 2013, 2:04 AM

Hi Razz

Don’t underestimate the “power of wasting time”.  If the time you spend “wasting” on trivialities, does you some good mentally/emotionally/spiritually, then it was not time “wasted” at all.

You mentioned daily planning of your “special time for yourself and saving it until the end of the day, so that you could be in a great mood all day anticipating it.  I really like that one.  We must be on the same wavelength, Razz.  

The other side of the coin of that axiom is this: “Whenever you have an unpleasant task to perform, do it the first thing in your day.  If you keep putting it off the whole day until the end, then you will carry the negative feelings of having to do it all day, and therefore spoil a day unnecessarily.” 


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Reply by KathCull_admin
23 Sep 2014, 3:47 AM

Hi Razz and eKIM
I thought you might be interested in hearing about a new thread started by Oldbat, Silly Things That Help Us Survive. Oldbat writes, “I'm declaring a "time out".  A moment or two, maybe even more, away from our cares.  To do something, anything, no matter how silly, that makes us feel lighter, brighter, more able to cope.”   


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