How to Manage Stress at Any Age: Keep Calm and Carry On!
A few years ago, we adopted a sweet Australian Shepherd puppy and named him London. London was a joy most of the time but sometimes he was a complete terror. We worked hard to train him, but from time to time, I found myself yelling. “London, come here!” “London, leave your sister alone!” “London don’t eat that!”
As I watched him play in the yard one morning, splashing in his water bowl, bringing me his monkey to fetch, digging in his favorite hole, I wondered, Why the heck am I yelling so much? He doesn’t seem to care one way or the other and just carries on in his own little world.
Every day we have choices about how to deal with the world and people around us. There are stresses and challenges and things that really tick us off, but we have a choice on how to face them. When I yelled at London, I felt angry, my blood pressure went up, I was frustrated and quite honestly didn’t enjoy the experience of being a dog mommy.
If you want to learn how to manage stress, here are a few suggestions.
Making a Commitment to Be Calm
What if I made a commitment to be calm? Could I get more positive results in his training by staying centered, being firm, establishing rules? Would London and I both have a more positive experience in the same moment where just seconds ago I was out of control and yelling?
London wasn’t doing those things to make me mad. He was a puppy. He was just being true to himself and quite honestly probably not that concerned about how I felt about it. People in our lives behave this way as well. I realized years ago that life is all about perception.
I used to think that the people in my day were purposely doing things to hurt me. The woman in the grocery store was grouchy because she didn’t like me. The job I didn’t get was a direct result of something wrong with me versus there possibly being a candidate that just had more to offer.
When you begin to realize that everyone is coming from their own frame of reference and that there is no possible way they can come from yours, you begin to see life in a different way.
Dealing with Stress in a Positive Way
Does that mean things won’t upset us? No, of course not. Does it mean that we just go through life smiling and letting people be hurtful? No, it doesn’t. What it means is that there is always another viewpoint. And when we step back, be calm and carry on, we can manage to address the bad behavior (like the barking going on in the yard right now) but not make ourselves sick over it.
Six Ways to Keep Calm
When you find yourself reacting in a negative way to a person or situation, try the following:
First, take a deep breath and count to 10. Yes, I know this sounds silly but honestly it really does work.
Remember that you don’t know everything. Quite honestly, most people don’t go around trying to make others angry. Consider that the other person might have their own reasons and perspective.
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. What might their motivation be? How are they viewing this situation?
Don’t forget the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. How would you like to be seen/reacted to in this instance?
Reframe. What is another way that you could respond? What would happen if you didn’t respond at all? Is there a way to view this situation in a more positive light?
Oh, and then breathe again.
It’s not all about you. We all come from our own backgrounds and experiences. We are all just trying to get along in the world. London was just being a puppy. It’s all he knew.
His motivations were different than mine. I might be able (eventually) to teach him or share my perspective but he still comes from his own frame of reference. When I try to understand that, I am less angry and we are both happier.
I still have a lot of work to do. Even at age seven, London can still get me screaming “Why are you doing that?!!!” But when I stay calm, and try to understand his point of view – not always easy since he’s a dog – I find that I don’t yell quite so much and my world – and his – seems to run a lot more smoothly.
Keep calm and carry on folks!
How do you manage stress in your life? What strategies do you have for keeping calm? Do you have a pet in your life that is a teacher and a friend? Please share your story in the comments.