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Back to Today's Child
Most of Stress
Being a parent or an educator has
to be one of the toughest jobs ever invented -- to not only be on
top of your own life, with all its trials and tribulations, but also
stay focused on your role as the children's primary/secondary
want to be the best we can be; we want to help children learn how to
become independent and make good choices in life; we want to achieve our
goals and help the kids meet theirs; we want to be there when we are
needed, step back when it is appropriate, and just listen when that is the best
thing to do. Wonderful goals, but slip into this process conflicting
time schedules, appointments, differing of opinions, different learning
styles, priorities, personalities, and the need for independence and
a sense of belonging, and you have the makings for some 'big time
So how DO we cope with all
this? How do we keep from becoming stressed-out, overcome with
of all we need to know what stress is!
I like to think of stress
and anxiety as two different things.
- a good thing
- an indicator that changes are happening
- a preparation for action
- physical cues
- a not-so-good thing
- an indicator of fighting/denying change
- always ready for action but no action comes
- spinning your wheels
--a good thing, you say?? Yes, anxiety is a good thing!
It is actually a vital component of survival, of motivation, of
I called this page "Making the Most of
Stress", but that was just to get your attention.
It is actually
"Making the Most of Anxiety" that I will be focusing on.
Stress is what we want to avoid.
|The following chart indicates where
anxiety comes into play and when we head into the stress
|The Comfort Zone
want to point out the wonderful middle section called "the
comfort zone". Oh how we love our comfort zone. It is
safe and secure; it is the known; it is routine. Regardless of
what type of environment we live in -- including abuse -- that is our
comfort zone. We know what to expect. We know what will
happen next, what the effects of different actions will be, and how
others will act in any given situation. But throw an unknown factor in
there, a change in the patterns, and we hit the anxiety level.
We know many tricks to keep in our comfort zone,
and so do children. Let's look at a situation where the adult
reacts with "yelling" when a child (let's say "Tom")
behaves in a way the adult (let's say "Mary") feels is
Tom does something
"wrong". Mary yells. Tom yells back. Mary sends him to his
Now let's say that Mary takes an anger
management course and decides to stop yelling at Tom. How does this affect
the "comfort zone"?
Tom does something
"wrong". Mary is uncomfortable but doesn't yell. Tom is confused, anxious -- this
is NOT the comfort zone! He yells anyway. Mary continues to ignore it.
He yells louder. Tom knows what to expect and he wants it to
happen. He yells again, waiting for Mary to send him to his
room. Mary still ignores him but is getting very
stressed (anxious but doing nothing about it). Tom continues to yell and throws in some slamming
of doors, stomping of feet, and anything else he can think of to get the
routine back to normal. Mary finally has enough, yells, and
sends him to his room.
The comfort zone: safety, known, routine.
it was pointed out to me that I was focusing too much on the
negative! So, on the flipside of our "sandbagging
attempts to move out of our comfort zones", here is why we need to
stay IN our Comfort Zone!
The Comfort Zone is where we get to
live.. to explore, to learn, to become experts, to practice, to enjoy
life, to coast, to laugh, to fit in, to belong, to know who we are, to
perfect, to relax, to build relationships, to let our hair down, to unwind, to build our
self-esteem, to be proud of ourselves... to love life!
The Comfort Zone is not a place we want to avoid,
however, we, as members of the human species, do need the rejuvenation
stages and the growth stages as the cycle of life revolves.
The rejuvenation and growth areas of our lives are
short-term, temporary states as we progress through our lives, moving
from one comfort zone to the next.
Each comfort zone we hit, we should enjoy to the fullest, but remain
ever aware of the need to grow and the need to reflect.
stated above, lets us know that we are at a point in our lives where
change is going to happen, has happened, or is needing to happen. Our
bodies give us clues to let us know that it is ready! We may get sweaty
palms, or start to pace, or tune out the world.
Everyone's anxiety cues are different. To be in control
of stress, one must be able to tell when they are being anxious-- be
aware of the cues. What are your anxiety cues? Ask your family and
friends. Ask the kids! They may know the signs better than you. Write
them down; post them on the fridge. This is very important
knowledge and the key to stress control.
Now, knowing the cues is only half the battle. Just as we are good at
keeping in the comfort zone we are also very good at hiding or ignoring
the cues. Upset stomach? Take some antacid. Tuning out the world?
Grab the tv controller. But these are avoidance tactics and leave you
spinning your wheels.
What I want to do is change the chart above and remove the stress zones.
Anxiety --cues regarding change. But what change? Let's look at the
opportunities; new challenges; new awareness; new understanding. That
is growth. Change is important. Without it we would be in a cave
somewhere eating vegetation or raw meat. But growth means
stepping out of that comfort zone and that can be
"stressful" -- if we avoid it, deny it, or fight it.
Fighting growth can make us on edge, easily agitated, and avoiding it
can plummet us down through the comfort zone to the other end of the
At the other end
of the spectrum is rest, recouping, planning, recharging,
refocusing. This also is very important.
Without it we will burn out or walk in circles without a plan of
action. We will give and do and give and do until we have nothing left
to give or no energy left to do. People who avoid the rejuvenation
fall into states of depression. 'Their lives aren't going anywhere;
they are failures; nothing ever changes; life is hopeless.'
tells us that we are ready for rejuvenation or growth! So how do we know
where we are headed and what to do, so that we avoid jumping into the
|Making the Most of Anxiety
Let's get down to the nitty gritty! What to do? What to
- Listen to your body: recognize the cues
- Stop what you are doing; take time to reflect
- Identify the cause of the anxiety -- are you dealing with
change in your life, or wanting one? are you worn out, needing a
break? are you just needing time to refocus, to figure out where you
- Plan-what do you need, to move forward or to rejuvenate yourself?
what is really going on? why has your comfort zone been thrown in a
loop? how are you going to deal with it?
- Delegate, negotiate, reiterate, contemplate, communicate,
activate, but don't procrastinate
are the pitfalls to making this work? Well again, we know many
tricks to sandbag our attempts at growth and rejuvenation. (Remember: we LOVE our comfort zone!) And on
the other hand, we lack some of the skills to controlling our
lives. Life does not come with a manual. But it does come
with experience, and boy have I had experiences!! When we take the time
to sit back and reflect on things, we do indeed learn some important
things about life. This page is about what I have learned.
Problem Is It ?
to Not Choose
In the Past
- Let other people own their own problem--the choices, the
responsibilities, the consequences (that does not mean that you are
not there to help them through it, but it is their issue to deal
- give advice and opinions but allow them the right to make own
- with children, know when it is appropriate to take control
(safety). You cannot make a child learn; you can provide him with
the tools. You CAN stop a child from running into traffic.
- accept their choices as theirs and make your new choices
accordingly. So often we stew over their choices, berating
them, judging them. But their choices were the best they could
make with the information they had AT THE TIME, with their knowledge
from past experiences. their skills, and their mood / personality etc.
- assess the situation and your needs of the moment and make a
conscious choice of action -- which may be not to do anything, but
that is still a choice
- making a choice means staying in charge, being in control
- in any given situation you can choose to
1) live with the situation as is and continue to be upset about it;
2) live with the situation as it is but change your perception of it;
3) make changes which includes providing information and tools to
others so they can make new choices;
4) walk away from the situation -- leave it in the past
- once you have made a choice and acted on it -- let it go (learn
from it, but do not rehash your decision, beating yourself up over
it, if things didn't go as planned)
- when you make a choice, it is the best choice at that time, in
that given situation, with the information you had at that given
moment, with the knowledge of previous experiences, in the mood you
were in at that moment, with the amount of sleep, amount of other
issues in your life
- acknowledge that we don't typically choose to make a bad choice --
unless it is to sabotage ourselves and/or keep us in our comfort
zone (and why DO we want to stay there, if there is a chance for
rejuvenation or growth? That is a question we also sometimes avoid
- know that you made the best choice you could and can make
difference choices in the future
- but about the past?? it was the best you could do, it was meeting
your needs; you weren't ready for anything different; learn the lesson and move on.
- celebrate the experiences of the past, the wisdom that you gained and the growth that you have made because of and/or since the events
A co-worker isn't pulling their weight. They know
how to slack off and not get caught, spend way too much time at the
water cooler, leaves tasks for others to complete, and goes home with
the same pay cheque as you. What do you do?
We can name-call, gossip
or complain with the other co-workers or family members. Yes, we can do
this, but I would guess that the anxiety we feel over the situation will
quickly turn to stress! Looking at the pitfalls above, what can we do to
"Make the Most of Anxiety"?
Whose Problem is it?
- is it your problem? or is it that person's and their boss?
- do you really need to concern yourself with their actions?
- is knowing that YOU are doing a great job and are respected by
others more important to you than what people think of someone else?
- is it your responsibility as a team member to ensure everyone is
onboard and doing their best?
Choose to Choose
- REJUVENATE... take some time to look at the situation and
determine a plan. What are your goals, what do you need to
- TAKE ACTION -- which might include talking to the person, then
talking to the boss, ignoring the person's behaviours and focusing
on your job, not participating in the gossip. Consider how to
do what you choose to do and what the consequences of these actions
will be. Are you willing to deal with the consequences? Do you have
back-up plans in place?
- Know that your actions may not achieve the goals you desire.
Everyone has the right to make their own choices. Let
them. Then make new choices. (ex. the boss sides with
your co-worker. He* can do that.. that is his* right. Now you have to
decide how you are going to handle that.. go above his head? talk to
Living in the Past
- LET IT GO... if things seem to get worse because of your choices,
know that you did what was best at that moment in your life.
Make new choices. Move on. Learn from your action. Be proud of
making a choice, taking a stand (regardless of what that is).
is nothing in life that you HAVE TO DO
except make a choice!
Once it is a choice,
then you have regained control.
You don't HAVE
to work, you choose to work -- enjoy it
You don't HAVE
to take the kids to the dentist, you choose to take them --be proud of
You don't HAVE
to cook meals, you choose to cook -- take pleasure in it
You don't HAVE
to bring in a pay cheque (you could go live off the land) -- be
thankful for it (unless you WANT to live off the land.. then make some
choices!! Do it!
- allow yourself to feel anger, resentment, frustration etc.
TEMPORARILY.. then do something about it!
- live with no regrets (make a choice and follow it through, knowing you can change your plans down the road)
- when things seem overwhelming, it is time for rejuvenation
- watch the self-talk (you don't HAVE to, no one is MAKING you, you
aren't the ONLY one who can etc.)
- when the roller coaster of life is a dropping to the bottom, climb
off at the top and wait for it to come back up -- rejuvenate, take
control by making conscious choices, know that it WILL get better
- delegate, negotiate, reiterate, contemplate, communicate,
activate, but don't procrastinate... make a choice!
copyright 2000 Debbie Roswell
The above info is my own personal perspective on life--and not meant as a
replacement to professional help.
Only you know your situation, your personality, your past experiences. But DO do
everything you can to enjoy life!!
Any more ideas?? Please share them!