By Dr. Willie Ong

How does one handle stress coming from a bossy employer, a philandering husband or a general unhappiness with life. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Stress Situation 1:  Arguments With Spouse

Dr. Jessy Ang, a psychiatrist from UST, gives these practical tips on how to deal with marital problems. First, give your partner some room to relax first when he or she comes back from work. Let him watch the TV first or tinker with his gadgets for around 30 minutes before launching on your offensive.

Second, agree on some ground rules before engaging. Rule number 1 is to not bring up of past mistakes. (“You always nag me and don’t support me.”) Rule number 2 is to not involve relatives and mother-in-laws in the arguments. They’re off topic. (“Your mom always looked down on me.”)

Third, once the rules are set, gently list down one or two issues you’d like to solve. Ask your partner to help you with this mini-problem solving technique. What steps can we make to solve this? Is there something I don’t know about?

Fourth, never use the word “you” when discussing, always use “I”. For example, “I am disappointed because of what happened. I feel bad about the situation.” When you start using the word “you,” the argument heats up. (“You never allow me… You always do this…”)

Fifth, when one party begins to raise his or her voice, it’s time to call a… “Time-out!” A time-out can last from an hour to a day. Respect the other person’s feelings until he or she is ready to talk again. Whew, what a life!

Stress Situation 2: Dealing With a Bossy Employer

            Another psychiatrist Dr. Paul Lee gives the following advice when dealing with a difficult employer. First, list down the things you want to say to him. You can write down your feelings on paper to release the brewing tension. Second, look at your boss’ complaints from his point of view. Maybe he’s just stressed. Maybe he is not really angry at you but at his life (“mad at the world”). Next, try to find an appropriate time to open up to your employer. Try to make him see you in a positive light, like what you can offer to the company. And if he gets hopping mad, you can humor him, “Sir, you look more handsome when you’re not angry.” It’s difficult really but try to find the good in every bossy boss.

9 Stress-Reducing Tips:

  1. Identify the things that bring you stress. Sometimes, just finding out what stresses you already dissipates the stress. At least, you now know in your mind what you’re angry at.
  2. Share some responsibilities. A shared burden is lighter for you to carry. You may even develop a new friendship in the process. Just make sure the other person also gets something in return for helping you out.
  3. Find some humor even in the worst situation. Try to find a silver lining in every seeming disappointment. “Well, I didn’t think he was husband material anyway.”
  4. Verbalize it and release it. Say for example, “I am so afraid to make this speech.” Talking about your fears will help you release it, and you can then refocus yourself. Talking it out is releasing the stress.
  5. Do things little by little. Don’t deal with a gargantuan problem in one sitting. Just make these teeny-weeny steps. A Japanese philosophy believes they can change the world by making little baby steps. They recommend asking oneself, “What little improvement can I do to help my community? What little thing can I do to make my husband happy?” The key word is “little.” It gets you going in the right direction and it’s not stressful because it’s just a little, right?
  6. Say “So what, I don’t care!” This kind of “to heck with it” attitude helps you postpone your stress until you are ready to deal with it another day. Schedule a worry time. Tell yourself, “I’m going to sleep and forget about the problem. I’m going to deal with it at 11 AM tomorrow morning.” We must understand that there are times our body is weak in dealing with stress and there are times we are strong. If you get hit at a weak point (You’re tired. It’s late. You’ve got other problems), tell yourself that your weakness is only temporary. You will beat that problem at the right time.
  7. Get into a healthy mindset. Research shows that people who effectively handle stress have three things in common: (a) They consider life a challenge, (b) They have a mission in life and they are committed to fulfilling it, (c) They don’t feel victimized by life, but believe that setbacks are only temporary. In short, they have a positive outlook.
  8. Do the things that relax you. For example, like listening to music, lying in a dark room, taking a siesta, reading humorous books, watching a funny movie, talking with a friend, fixing up your house, taking a warm bath or just plain doing nothing. Health tips to relax you include avoidance of coffee, doing aerobic exercises, breathing deeply in and out, and thinking of something peaceful or happy.
  9. Finally, our best strategy for stress reduction is – helping other people. Just helping someone sicker, older or poorer than you will help you re-frame your mind and put things in the proper perspective. Happiness and richness is relative. And with all the blessings you are receiving, you can be happy today. Take care!

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