(Family Magazine May 2011 2nd Issue)

Christine Wu

Everyone experiences all kinds of pressure or stress from daily lives. Some pressures are internal, such as from school or friendship that is part of the growing pains. Some pressures are external, like growing up in a single parent home and feeling helpless from the economic downturn. No matter where the pressure is from, if we live under pressure for a long time, it would bring serious adverse effects on our psychological health.

According to a recent report from the American Psychology Association (APA) entitled “Stress in America”, residents from Los Angeles ranked No.1 in stress level, far exceeding the national average.  They are more concerned about money, jobs and economic issues.  Angelinos are also less capable to relieve stress compared to residents in other major metropolitan cities.

We would like to offer some helpful suggestions to relieve stress.

Method # 1: Adjust your attitude; be more optimistic.

“Attitude determines destiny.” This saying is not an exaggeration. Whenever there are problems that we are unable to deal with, negative reactions such as fatigue, grouchiness, headache and feeling of helplessness will surface. If we change our mentality and look at our situation from another perspective, we would be able to reduce the adverse impact.

There are old proverbs that go like this:  “A loss may turn out to be a gain”, and, “There is opportunity in every crisis.”  These point us to the fact that there are two sides to every coin, and there is always more than one way to look at any situation. If we can optimistically look at what we have and be thankful and not dwell on what we don’t have, then our stress level will naturally reduce.  Of course, this kind of change will not occur overnight.  We need to constantly practice on evaluating our situations from different angles.

Method # 2:  Let family be the center of our focus.

Living a simple life and having good family relationship is the best medicine for relieving stress. When we are pressed from the outside world with nowhere to turn, we often rediscover that love from our family is the biggest treasure in the world. As a family, we can live a simple life by eliminating unnecessary expenses and living within our means.  A family can participate in free yet healthy activities such as walking, hiking and playing games or sports together. When we are closer to nature, our minds are more open to appreciate and enjoy what we do have.

Method # 3: Develop hobbies and interests.

When pressure gets us down, do something enjoyable such as reading a book or a magazine, organizing old pictures, chatting with a friend, listening to relaxing music or knitting. We can volunteer to help less fortunate people at a charity.  Some people had said, ‘we feel less pain when our attention is put on others rather than ourselves.’ If we have this mentality of “worse than some, but better off than many,” then our stress level will be lowered.

Method # 4:  Reflect on our lives.

We tend to take things for granted when life is going smoothly. We seldom value our jobs, our health and our families until adversities strike. This is the golden opportunity to ask yourselves this question:  “What is my life goal – is it my job, money, a bigger house, a more expensive car or a better school for my children?” Many people seek a relationship with God through this self reflection after losing their jobs in this economic tsunami. They are able to realign their value system and realize that there are more important things in life than working and making money. This is what it means to have a blessing in disguise.

Method # 5: Most important – faith in God gives power.

Faith in God lets us view at things from God’s vantage point. We become more mature when we can look back on things from a historical perspective.  Something considered very important to us now will become very trivial after a few short years.

God loves us.  The Bible says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for prosperity and not for harm, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV) “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than yours.” (Isaiah 55:9)  Even when we face different kinds of problems and difficulties, God promises us good. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28) Above all, He gives us a “cure-all pill” in 1 Peter 5:7. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” And in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

From what we have talked about, stress is not unbearable if we can learn to face our problems with optimism and appreciation of what we have been given. At the same time, self-reflecting and adjusting our value system is also essential. Above all, faith in God is the major force in helping us to find life’s true meaning and gives us motivation to grow through adversity.