Three Ways to Keep Stress From Getting Out of Control
"I can't do this anymore. It is just too much," my husband, Dan, said, hanging his head. Standing in the midst of the disaster in our rental unit, we were feeling overwhelmed. This was the third tenant who had moved out without paying their rent, leaving their apartment in a junk heap.
We asked ourselves, "What could we have done differently?" We had tried to work with them, and at the same time, hold them accountable. It was a no-win situation, and now, we were suffering.
With both of us working, the task ahead of us seemed daunting, and our stress was getting out of control. We knew that at some point, we would need to sell the property, but when? And how do we deal with it in the meantime?
Where does stress come from?
Stress happens. It is a natural result of life, and we must take steps to manage it or it will get out of control. There are at least five sources of stress:
- Issues with our resources — time, money, people, and equipment
- Loss of things we love — family, home, dreams, pets, health, or friends
- Difficult circumstances — at home, school, work, or in the community
- Unresolved emotions — they fester and grow rather than going away
- Pressure to perform — concern over what others think of us
Stress can come from not having enough, or it can come from having too much. See the table below:
Too much to do and not enough time
Too much time and too little to do
Too much month left at the end of the money
Too much money left at the end of the month
Not enough people to do what needs to be done
Too many people and not enough to do
Too little equipment to do the job right
Too much equipment sitting around without being used
Where does your stress come from the most?
In our case, our stress was coming from multiple sources. Our finances were limited due to tenants not paying rent. We had no time or desire to clean up the messes they made. If we were to sell the property, we would lose the future financial benefits of having it.
We had been trying for months to get these particular tenants to accept responsibility for their actions. We were close to taking legal action in hopes of recuperating our losses, then they left on their own. We were grateful they were gone but felt angry and frustrated by what they left behind.
With the approaching winter, we felt pressured to get things repaired and usable. We needed to haul away garbage, clean thoroughly, repair walls, and replace windows. Each project would take time and money that we really didn't have to spare.
We had adopted the philosophy many years ago that people were more important than things. We felt that owning the rental property would give us an avenue to help others as well as a financial tax shelter and a source of additional income.
Unfortunately, our philosophy put us in the position to trust people too much, giving others an unfair advantage over us. This was a hard lesson to learn, and we knew that we needed to be more careful in the future.
Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.— Thomas S. Monson
Signs that stress is getting to be too much
When stress gets out of control, we experience a variety of physical ailments:
- cold symptoms
- joint and muscle pain
- stomach upset
- fatigue or sleeplessness
- racing thoughts
- lack of concentration
- increase or decrease of appetite
- changes in digestive processes
If we recognize that these are stress related symptoms, we can take steps to alleviate the problem. Choosing not to do so will result in more permanent damage to our physical bodies. We end up with things like high blood pressure, heart issues, ulcers, chronic fatigue, and degenerative muscle diseases.
Between the two of us, Dan and I were both taking multiple over the counter remedies daily. It was evident that we needed to do something different before one of us ended up in the hospital.
Stop stress before it stops you!
A Change of Focus
There are three simple techniques we can use to interrupt the escalation of stress. They are: 1) change our focus, 2) prioritize our activities, and 3) set boundaries for ourselves. As we do these things, we minimize the stress we experience and decrease the chances that we become chronically ill.
Standing in that apartment, I knew that if I didn't say something to change our focus, we wouldn't get anything done. I asked Dan how long we had owned the rental unit. He said, "Thirteen years."
I replied, "In those thirteen years, what has this rental unit done for us?" Together, we listed all the benefits we had experienced, including a hefty tax break, money to purchase two vehicles, a means whereby we could finance a new roof and siding on our primary home, and an opportunity to work together on a meaningful project.
As we looked at the situation from a different point of view, we realized that what we were currently experiencing was a temporary setback, and that if we simply kept moving forward, we would eventually get through it.
Let us relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey, and share our love with friends and family. One day each of us will run out of tomorrows.— Thomas S. Monson
The Need to Prioritize
We decided that we needed to prioritize the projects that were ahead of us. There was so much to do, if we didn't figure out what was most important, we would work very hard without really accomplishing anything.
Since one of the properties belongs to Dan's deceased father's estate, getting that property ready for sale was a high priority. We knew, however, that we could easily be burned out by focusing solely on it. At the same time, we needed to get new renters in the other property, and there was much to be done to accomplish this goal.
We sat down and looked at our calendar to find windows of time when we could focus on one property or the other. We realized that there were some openings in our busy schedule when we could work together on the project.
Dan also realized that he had people available to him that could help when I was not available. Humbling ourselves enough to ask for this help was difficult, but it would keep us from wearing ourselves out.
Once we determined these two priorities, we were able to see the steps to take to accomplish both goals in a timely manner. We spent less time stewing, and more time actually getting the things done that needed our attention.
After working on several of the projects together, I realized that my physical body was not bouncing back from the extra exertion. I had to step back and take inventory, helping in other ways rather than overspending my physical strength.
Dan had been fighting an upper respiratory infection. It seemed to come and go with the amount of sleep he had. He, too, had to make the decision that rest was important to him. We mused that we were not as young as we used to be. There was a time in life when we could work through the night in physically demanding work and not see any adverse affects. That time had come and gone!
Now that we are in our declining years, we have had to be much more careful with what we are doing. We have to move slower, take longer to consider options, and weigh in a balance what we will do and when. Setting boundaries for ourselves means that we will survive the length of time needed to get the jobs done that are laid out before us.
We had previously considered keeping the properties into our retirement. It was now very evident that would not be wise. Rather, we decided to fix them up, prepare them for sale, and find other ways to bring in additional income. Life would be much more pleasant not having to go through this again!
Stress Doesn't Have to Get the Best of Us
Stress doesn't have to get out of control. When we see our physical symptoms as red flags, we can step back and ask ourselves:
- What is happening?
- What am I feeling?
- What am I thinking about doing?
- What will happen if I do it?
- Is that really what I want?
- What would be better in the long run?
As we take a moment and evaluate what is happening, we can see a better path for ourselves and make the choices that will bring us greater happiness and peace. All it takes is for us to change our focus, prioritize what needs to be done, and set boundaries for ourselves.
Oftentimes, fear gets in the way of us doing these things. We are afraid of what others will think, or we have a fear of the unknown future. Having the courage to go forward in spite of these fears, we find that they are unfounded, that things usually work out for the good of others and ourselves, and that life actually does get better!
© 2017 Denise W Anderson