STRESS MYTH #3: The Best Way To Deal With Stress Is To Manage It

Copyright (c) 2011 M.C.Orman, M.D., FLP

(NOTE: This is the third in a series of eight articles on common myths about stress.)

In the first two articles in this series, I pointed out that most stress experts take it for granted stress is something that actually exists, and it is something people commonly suffer from. They go on from there to tell you all the bad things that can happen from high levels of stress, so you’ll be motivated to learn how to manage it.

In the first two articles (Stress Myth #1: Stress Is Something That Actually Exists!; and Stress Myth #2: Human Beings Sometimes Suffer From Stress), I debunked these first two popular myths.

In this article, I’m going to explain why managing stress is not your best coping option.

What is Stress Management?

Stress Management refers to a wide range of relaxation techniques and other life coping skills, such as:

— Taking deep breaths
— Meditation
— Biofeedback
— Yoga
— Relaxing massages
— Tai Chi/Eastern body exercises
— Listening to music
— Physical exercise
— Dietary changes
— Time management skills
— Assertiveness training
— Learning to avoid stressful situations
— Taking regular vacations
— Etc.

All stress management techniques have positive, health-enhancing benefits. They are also healthier and safer than turning to cigarettes, alcohol, food, illegal drugs, or other chemical substances to cope with your “stress.”

These positive benefits of managing stress are very well-known and have been widely publicized. Unfortunately, most experts never talk about the disadvantages of managing stress.

Disadvantages of Stress Management

If you’ve ever tried to manage your stress, you’ve probably discovered that:

–Stress management techniques can be very time-consuming.

–They often require long-term commitment to daily practice (sometimes several times a day).

–Even if you start out with good intentions, your commitment may wane after several weeks or months.

This brings us to the biggest, and most important, disadvantage of managing stress.

Despite all the good things it can potentially do for you, managing stress mainly addresses just the SYMPTOMS of your problems. It rarely helps you deal with the underlying CAUSES of your day-to-day difficulties.

Warning Light Analogy

If a warning light on the dashboard of your car suddenly started flashing, would you go to a mechanic and ask him or her to disconnect the wire to the bulb? Of course you wouldn’t.

But isn’t this the same as working hard to reduce just the symptoms of your stress, without ever learning how to identify and deal with its underlying causes? This is why I believe managing stress is NOT our best coping option.

In order to achieve long-term stress relief, you’ve got to become good at recognizing and dealing with the underlying causes of your problems. In order to do this, you’ve got to get very specific. You can’t just lump all your problems together into one big “mega-problem” called “stress” and then try to get at underlying causes. This muddies the water and makes the task virtually impossible to succeed at.

This is why it is so critical to know that stress is just a word. By changing your focus from trying to deal with stress per se, this will force you to get more specific about the exact problem or problems you are having (a step you don’t have to take, if you mistakenly believe your problem is stress).

The reason this is so important is because specific problems always have specfic causes. Thus, by more clearly defining your problems in this key first step, you’ll find yourself in much better position to identify the underlying causes of each specific problem that might be bothering you.

Mort (Doc) Orman, M.D. is a physician, author, and stress coach who has been helping people eliminate stress, without managing it, for more than 30 years. Follow his innovative stress relief blog. Download his free, 30-page, PDF stress mastery training “Common Myths About Stress” (no email or registration is required).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *