Edward A. Dreyfus, Ph.D.

Family, marriage, work, and even our own thinking can become sources of stress. Life today is filled with sources of stress much of which cannot be avoided. Often the best we can do is find ways of effectively coping. To be effective we must recognize both the source of stress and appropriate techniques for dealing it.

Family. Families are a complex network of interactions. Each family is a system and hence each interaction and each personality affects the entire system. If one person is ill in your family, it is clear how that illness disrupts the everyday flow of the system. Likewise, it affects the system when one member of the family is angry or depressed. An alcoholic in the family disrupts the system and often leads to the system trying to adapt to the family member. Sometimes that adaptation creates difficulties as well.

The family, like the human body, tries to compensate for an organ that is not functioning up to par. Our entire body may be thrown out of alignment by an injury to an arm or a leg, for example. Similarly, the family in an attempt to compensate for one of its members, may be thrown out of alignment and become dysfunctional. When this occurs it is time to seek professional help. Psychologists and family therapists can help the family focus on the communication styles that throw the family out of alignment.

Relationships. A primary relationship is often stressful. Two people, each with different histories, different personalities, different needs, and different ways of doing things are trying to live under the same roof and get along with each other on a daily basis. That's a pretty tall order even under the best of circumstances.

One of the main difficulties that couples face revolves around expectations. Each person in the relationship brings expectations -- a set of explicit expectations, a set of implicit expectations, and a set of unrealistic expectations. These expectations, when in conflict with the other person's expectations, can create a great deal of conflict; and this conflict is stressful.

During the course of a relationship, each partner may go through a series of transitions, such as the death of a parent, the loss of a job, or physical illness. The couple may go through transitions, such as relocation, the birth of a child, or the change of a job. All of these changes have an impact on the relationship and produce stress.

Occupational. Work is a significant source of stress for many people. Conflicts on the job, dissatisfaction with one's supervisor or with the job itself, insufficient financial compensation, fear of losing one's job, fear of changing a job for greater advancement, feeling stifled in a quest for power, not feeling appreciated or acknowledged, all produce significant stress. The degree of stress will vary depending on the personality of the individual and the amount invested in each issue.

How we think. Stress increases as a function of how we think about events. Some folks tend to catastrophize events, making mountains out of molehills, or exaggerating the consequences. They tend to react to small things with larger than warranted feelings, exaggerating the event to match their feelings, rather than adjusting their feelings to the event. People with low stress reactions tend to make molehills out of mountains.

The following questions can help gain a perspective on situations to reduce the impact and hence the stress.

  • What is the worst that can happen?
  • What is the likelihood of the worst happening?
  • Have I done everything that I reasonably can do to alter the outcome?
  • Will my life change substantially and will I even remember it years from now?
  • How would I counsel a friend in a similar situation?

All you need are a couple of helpful statements for yourself for coping when you are under stress. These might include refocusing thoughts such as:

  • What's my goal?
  • I need to calm down.
  • I'll think of sitting in a warm Jacuzzi, and
  • just letting my muscles relax. This situation isn't worth it.
  • I'll take a few seconds here to relax.
  • My body is telling me it isn't happy.
  • What can I do to calm down? Ok, time for a shower!
  • Ok, time for a walk around the block.
  • What's the best way out of here? I'm just human.
  • So, I'll do the best I can, and let the rest go.

There are several common activities that are useful in reducing or coping with transitory, situational stress. These techniques, when applied regularly, can significantly reduce or soften the brunt of the stress reaction to temporary events.


Continued ...
How to Manage Sources of Stress


Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus is a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage, Family, Child Therapist, and Sex Therapist. Dr. Dreyfus has been providing psychological services in the Los Angeles-Santa Monica area for over 30 years. He offers individual psychotherapy to adolescents and adults, divorce mediation, couples counseling, group therapy, and career and vocational counseling and assessment.His book, Someone Right For You, is available in the Amazing Bookstore Catalog.

Dr. Dreyfus can be reached at: (310) 208-5700.


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