As with any meaningful change to occur, a person first has to be aware of the need for change. After all, why would you want to put time and energy into changing something that’s working fine the way it is, or at least, fine enough the way it is? The funny thing is, other people can often spot how we would benefit from changing something a lot more readily than we can see it ourselves. That statement could easily segue into a different blog about the power of healthy relationships, but I’ll save that for another time.

So, back to stress. In addition to becoming aware of something needing to change, a person also needs to know why that change is important, and finally, how to affect change; how to adopt new ways of being that will be benefit them.

First, let’s talk about stress awareness. Maybe you are fully aware. You realize how stress is effecting you without anyone pointing it out. On the other hand, you could be like so many others who are used to the heightened state of stress they’re in. They’ve learned to live with it. They’ve powered on, pushed it out of awareness, perhaps been numbing it with alcohol, or minimizing it in some other way in order to adapt.

So let’s say you’re not sure how stress affects you. How would you know if you need to reduce your stress level? Let’s start with cues from others. Has anyone told you that you seem stressed? Maybe you’ve just gone to your doctor with an ailment and learned your problem is directly related to stress, and you’d better do something about it before it gets worse! Or maybe a significant other is telling you that your stress level is negatively impacting your relationship and something needs to give!

By using the analogy of driving a vehicle, I’d like to illustrate how awareness is critical in maintaining good health by keeping our stress level in check. Let’s say you’re a driver that isn’t aware that periodic engine service is integral to your car’s performance. The car salesman didn’t tell you anything about adding oil and the likes. He probably assumed you knew everything a car owner needs to know already.

You don’t know much about cars, but you do know you have to fuel up when the gas gauge is low. Since you haven’t learned otherwise, no wonder you think refueling is the only requirement for your ride providing you with reliable transportation. You don’t know about adding or changing oil, engine coolant, etc. That lack of knowledge actually works for quite a while. Everything is A-Okay until these lights start appearing on the dash. You have no idea what’s going on, so you drive on. You continue to put gas in your tank when it’s low. Then these weird noises start up. Finally, the car breaks down, leaving you stranded on your way to somewhere important.

In the same way we need to be aware that a vehicle needs regular maintenance in addition to putting gas in the tank, we need to be aware what goes into maintaining optimum health, which includes being proactive about stress management.

It also helps to know why it needs to change, (if we don’t add oil, engine coolant, brake fluid, etc. things will not end well). And finally, we need to know how to do things differently than we’ve always done before (take the car in for regularly scheduled maintenance).  In this way, meaningful change (behavior modification which facilitates reliable transportation) can actually happen.

Unlike that ill-informed car owner who learned a hard lesson by breaking down on the way to somewhere important, you can take steps to prevent ending up on the side of the road, so to speak. In my next blog in this series, I’ll share an “engine diagnostic” tool for your use. Let’s hope your “check engine light” isn’t flashing, but if it is, at least you’ll be aware of what needs to change and why it’s important to change, so that you can then learn how to change it.

Want to go more in-depth about how to maintain yourself in top-notch condition? I’d love to sit down with you, learn what’s contributing to your stress level, and share practical strategies to put in place for navigating through stress producing situations. Don’t hesitate to call me at 503 410-4600 or email me today. Until then, wishing you safe travels!

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