We all have strategies for dealing with stress in our lives. Dealing with grief and stress after the death of a significant person can be challenging. Yet if we persevere and establish stress management activities it can help us to gain peace, balance and to move forward.
It is acknowledged that the death of a significant person in our lives is one of the most stressful events that we will face. After a death we are left dealing with both grief and stress. The previous stressors we were faced with before our loss do not necessarily go away, they are still there to deal with. However, you may notice that compared to the stress you now face, many other issues fade and become insignificant in your grief.
Stress is a term used in everyday speech. It is likely that you have been involved in some form of stress management training in the past. However, as you are now dealing with grief and stress it is important for your health to ensure that you understand stress and can find appropriate strategies for dealing with it.
You may already have noticed that some previous stressors have disappeared and lost their significance as you are faced with this major stressor of grief in your life. Just as easily, other seemingly insignificant events may now be causing you a significant degree of distress. You would also have noticed that different people place a different significance on the same set of events and circumstances. What may be a stressful event for someone may not be of any consequence to someone else.
Stress is about our perception of events and how we cope when dealing with stress. Our perception is what we think the event means in relation to ourselves.
By changing or improving our perception of events (beliefs and thoughts), as well as developing better coping and stress management activities we can significantly reduce our stress and increase our quality of life.
Stress if a part of life. We need a certain amount of stress to challenge and motivate us to action. The trick is in being able to maintain a healthy balance. People are often surprised to discover that many of their ailments may be due to stress.
Stress can be induced by a wide range of events in the environment and within the individual, and each of us has a different response to potential stress events.
Fight or Flight refers to the general adaptive response of the body to opportunities, pressures and demands experienced. Hormones are released to help us to deal with these demands. The body prepares itself physiologically to defend against threats or changes (increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, increased oxygen to major muscles) to fight, or to run away, flight. While this response is excellent in situations where we need a physical reaction (fight or flight), it can also make us become excitable, jumpy and anxious, and consequently make it difficult for us to make complex decisions or communicate effectively with others.
If you feel you often have a number of these stress response indicators it may be worthwhile having a medical checkup in order to eliminate the possibility of other illnesses. You can also establish stress management activities to help deal with you grief and stress.
To effectively manage and recover from grief and stress we may need to take action with specific stress management activities to:
How well are you incorporating the following stress management activities into your daily life?
See if you can use or modify some of these stress management tips to work for you.
One of the most effective and instant stress management activities for dealing with grief and stress is to let go of resistance and create an awareness of the present moment.
Whenever we feel discomfort and stress, no matter what the circumstances, that discomfort is generally caused by our resistance to a situation being the way it is and not being how we would like it to be. The emotional discomfort of grief and stress is the result of not accepting what is or what has happened. Our resistance to situations and consequently our pain and discomfort is generally unconscious. However, by creating awareness and letting go of our resistance we can do much to reduce our suffering.
We may not be able to change the situation, particularly if we are grieving from the death of a loved one, but we can change our resistance to it by becoming aware of our thoughts, our breathing and our bodies.
Letting go of resistance will take some practice. Try it out on a small emotional discomfort first and observe what happens. Try it again and observe again. You can become your own science project. Don’t stress out if you feel that you are not getting it, as this would only be more resistance. Just continue to be aware of your thoughts, your breathing and what is happening in your body.
If a situation is causing discomfort and stress and there is actually something that can be done to change it,problem solving strategies can help you to resolve this issue. However, if something is causing discomfort and stress and you feel there is nothing practical that can be done to resolve the situation then you are most likely resisting something that has happened in the past or something you fear may happen in the future.
The following letting go of resistance exercise may help you in dealing with stress.
Give yourself several minutes and write down the answers to these questions.
see also Relaxation Techniques, Mindfulness, and Meditation
Learning how to relax mentally and physically can balance the stress response of fight or flight and help to significantly reduce stress. We can get caught up in the stresses of life and forget how to relax our minds and our bodies. Progressive Muscle Relaxation has been found to be a very effective stress management activity to relax physical tension in the body. Meditation techniques can bring a calm and stillness, and relax the tensions of the mind.
Thinking represents our internal communications and is the basis of how we live our lives. Our thinking determines how we feel and what we do. If we want to change how we feel and what we do, we firstly need to change ourthinking.
Our thinking is one thing that we do have complete control over (believe it or not). Firstly, of course, we most likely need to regain control of our thoughts, as we have probably grown up to believe that we are at the mercy of events and of our emotions. Little wonder we develop irrational and often negative thoughts within such a learning environment.
When irrational, and often negative, thoughts are presented to our subconscious the thoughts are then made real by the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy. How often do we put our selves down (even jokingly), feel inadequate or worry about how others might react? How often does this then become our reality?
We embrace rational and positive thinking by becoming aware of our thoughts. By challenging negative thoughts and making a realistic assessment of the situation. You do not need to become Pollyanna and see everything as good and positive.
At first start working on achieving an equal balance between rational positive thinking and the irrational negative thoughts. Then as you make headway, start developing a clear imbalance of thinking towards the rational and positive spectrum.
Positive affirmations can help to address the imbalance caused by negative and irrational thinking.
Often it is not the situation which causes stress, but the way we see and feel about the situation and consequently the way we react to a particular situation.
You have no doubt heard about positive affirmations and have probably tried some out. How did you go with them? Was it a little like wanting to win the lottery and then becoming disillusioned when you did not win? Well don’t give up on the strength of a dud lottery ticket.
Positive affirmations help you to think positively, help you to define what it is that you want, and help you to send a clear positive intention for change and growth to the universe.
If you read any of the self help literature you will be told that ‘we get what we focus on’. So there is little wonder that if we focus on our grief and stress, we get more grief and stress.
Read through the positive affirmations basic guidelines below and develop several positive affirmations to help you through your grief and stress.
Once you know what it is that you want (or are missing) you can then develop the positive affirmation to suite you. The following example positive affirmations may help you to develop your own in dealing with stress.
When you are grieving and stressed it may be difficult for you to get the sleep you need for normal healthy functioning. Try these stress management tips for sleeping to help deal with your grief and stress.
Healthy eating habits throughout life help to reduce the risk of many health problems. It is particularly important for you to maintain a healthy diet during this time of grief and stress. You may have lost all inclination to eat and it is likely that you probably are not interested in food preparation. It may also be that you could be eating everything in sight in compensation for you loss.
In the Dietary guidelines for Australians A guide to healthy eating(2005), the National Health & Medical Research Council NHMRC recommends:
Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods
Take care to: