Advice about how to cope with stress and about how to deal
with anxiety is frequently rather vague and simplistic. Too often doctors and
others will merely tell a patient suffering from a stress related disorder that
she or he must spend some time relaxing. That isn't a lot of help, of course.
Most people assume that they are relaxing when they are slumped in front of the
television set - but they aren't. Just sitting down and trying (usually in vain)
to ignore the day's problems won't help at all. If you are going to deal
effectively with stress and cope efficiently with anxiety you have to do a
little more than that. You have to learn how to use the power of your own mind
Don't forget that it is your mind's ability to exaggerate
problems and to see the worst possible outcome that helped to create your
feelings of anxiety. It is your mind which makes you susceptible to stress and
pressure and, if you know how to use it properly, your mind that can also defend
you against stress and immunise you against the unpleasant consequences of
anxiety. Your imagination can make you ill - but it can make you well again too;
it can make you weak but it can also make you strong.
All this may sound
daunting and rather impossible. It isn't. It really is very simple.
start with one of the best ways to help yourself reduce your exposure to
unnecessary and harmful stresses is to build up your own self-confidence. The
more you can build up your confidence the less susceptible you will be to guilt,
to destructive feelings of inadequacy and to excessive self-criticism. You will
also be stronger when you are confronted by people who want you to do things
that you don't really want to do. All these things will help you deal extremely
effectively with stress.
Try sitting down with a piece of paper and a
pencil and writing down all the good things you can think of to say about
yourself. Imagine that you are preparing an advertising campaign for yourself.
Throw modesty out of the window and try to promote all your virtues and good
points. Imagine that you are trying to sell yourself to the world - though in
reality, of course, all you are trying to do is to sell yourself to
Try to think of all the good words which describe you; honest,
generous, thoughtful, hard working, punctual, careful, considerate, moral, kind,
ambitious, creative. Write down every good word that you think you can honestly
apply to yourself. And don't be falsely modest - no one except you need ever see
Make a list of all your assets too. I don't mean a crude list
of the money you have and the things you own - though by all means do that if it
will help you feel better - but a list of all the intangibles in your life; your
partner, your children, your integrity, your friends, your interests, your
knowledge, your accomplishments and your memories - particularly your memories.
Those are the real valuables in your life.
If you lack self-confidence
you will probably often worry about disastrous things happening to you; you may
become almost irretrievably pessimistic. But you can defuse this particular fear
by always asking yourself: 'What is the worst thing that can happen in this
situation?' You will frequently be surprised to find that the 'worst' really
isn't all that bad. And once you know the worst you can make plans
Seven ways to build up your self-confidence
In order to build up your self-confidence you must replace negative,
damaging feelings of failure, incompetence and unworthiness with positive
feelings of success. Here are some practical ways in which you can boost your
1. Write an advertisement extolling your virtues and
listing all your good points. You can't think of any? Then look down this list
and pick out the words which you honestly feel apply to you:
What is it that people accuse you of most
(If you really don't know your worst fault try to decide what
you dislike most in other people - that is probably your worst
Now try to turn your fault around and look at it from the other
side. No personality is two dimensional and on the reverse of every bad quality
there is usually at least one good quality.
If you are obsessive you are
also likely to be observant, watchful and meticulous.
If you are
impatient you are also likely to be creative, energetic and full of
If you are pessimistic you are also likely to be cautious,
sensible and reliable.
If you are irresponsible you are also likely to
be fun, and exciting to be with.
If you are impractical you are also
likely to be artistic, sensitive and imaginative.
If you are vain you are
also likely to be fastidious and conscientious.
If you are intolerant you
are also likely to be honourable, truthful and law abiding.
If you are
unromantic you are also likely to be practical, sensible and
If you are prudish you are also likely to be faithful and
If you are ruthless you are also likely to be ambitious, and
If you are shy you are also likely to be sensitive,
thoughtful and imaginative.
If you are sensitive you are also likely to
be polite, thoughtful, generous and unselfish.
3. If you are always
worrying about your mistakes and if you for ever seem to be apologising just
remember that everyone makes mistakes occasionally. No one can possibly be right
all the time. There is nothing wrong in saying 'I was wrong. I am sorry'. If you
accept challenges, take risks and live your life to the full then sometimes you
will fail. Occasionally, your judgements will be faulty. You, and those who have
supported you, will lose face. But although making a mistake is a weakness
admitting that you have made a mistake is a sign of strength and courage.
Remember that apologising for your mistakes is a sign of maturity and learning
from your mistakes is a sign of true wisdom. People who never make mistakes
never take chances and people who never take chances have a life full of missed
4. Don't be afraid to say 'I don't know'. However guilty
you may feel at not knowing something remember that admitting that you don't
know is a sign of strength. No one can possibly know everything. The powerful,
the wise and the great are always prepared to admit that there are boundaries to
their knowledge. Only the weak, the uncertain and the stupid are silly and
conceited enough to pretend that they know everything.
5. Learn to be
more selfish. People who have low self-esteem and who suffer a lot from guilt
tend to be selfless - and tend to spend much of their lives worrying about and
thinking about other people. If you are a guilt sufferer you probably need to
spend more time thinking about what YOU want.
6. If you ever feel that
your life is a failure and you wish that you had more to be proud of make a list
of all the things in your life that are really important to you: partner,
friends, health, children, integrity, interests, accomplishments, knowledge and
memories. You will probably be surprised to find how many things there are that
you can be proud about!
7. When you are worried about the future ask
yourself what is the worst that can happen. You will probably be surprised to
find that the 'worst' may not be as bad as you thought it was going to be. The
'bottom line' isn't often as daunting as you think it will be.
is more on this subject in Vernon Coleman's book How To Relax And Overcome
Stress - available from the shop on this site and from all good bookshops