By Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D., MFCC

Stress is self-imposed in one way or another. You create your life and your life is created by what is inside of you and the choices that you make. You are responsible for every thought and feelings that you have. No one else creates your life, nor is anyone else responsible for your thoughts, feelings and choices.

However you choose to create stress, you can choose to transform it. Positive stress is based on true creativity rather than compulsive anxiety. Positive stress requires taking care of your self emotionally, spiritual, cognitively, and interpersonally. Negative stress creates distress – anxiety and suffering - and is driven by repressive defenses aimed at keeping you from discovering your real self. Workaholism, a prime example of negative stress, is a disorder based on “busy making” as a means of escaping from your own denied, buried emotions.

Building self-esteem requires more balance in your life. If you are too busy to be involved with your own self-growth program then your time management may need reorganization. Devote equal time to work, pleasure and joyful activities. Make sure that other aspects of your life, such as recreation, hobbies, relationship building, etc., are taken care of.

Recognize when you are in your disorder as compared to when you are not. Remember that you are not your work. You perform work. You have a body, a mind and many other things, but you are not any of these things. You are something else, separate and distinct from what anyone else or yourself may think you are. You are not your personality. You are a living, breathing essence, a soul of infinite worth and value and only by exorcising your pain can you clean out the harmful impediments to high self-esteem.

Steps to Reducing Stress:
  1. Reorganize your daily schedule in a more balanced direction.
  2. Include creative, pleasurable, and joyful activities into your schedule.
  3. Make a commitment that leads to a new life and gets you out of negative stress.
  4. Lie down for 15-30 minutes, with soft music playing in the background and begin to free associate. Do not censor your thoughts. Say out loud whatever comes to your mind and let your unconscious mind free you from stress.
  5. Allow for catharsis, abreaction and insight/connection. Catharsis and self-expression are similar. Catharsis may involve an emotional breakthrough, while self-expression involves a dramatic shift in energy and chemistry.

You are letting the real you come out of hiding and be expressed, and that alone relieves stress and gives you another wonderful piece of yourself.

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