Three Effective Ways to Reduce Stress
Michael G. Rayel, MD
The American Institute of Stress reports that stress among
Americans is significantly rising. About $300 billion a year
is lost due to stress-related reduced productivity, absenteeism,
insurance cost, health-related programs, and employee dissatisfaction.
This is a sad fact.
Signs of stress are palpable everywhere. Demanding bosses,
adamant customers, arrogant experts and consultants, irresponsible
workers, intriguing politics cause apprehension in the workplace.
While fighting couples, nagging wives, philandering husbands,
and behaviorally-challenged kids inflict chaos in the homes.
However, a little stress is as necessary as the need to breathe
fresh air or eat nutritious food. Stress somehow serves a
purpose. A little stress helps a person prepare better, perform
better, and think better. Sometimes without stress, there
is no push.
But for some people, being stressed becomes the sole purpose
and is a way of life. While breathing and eating are physiologic
needs, excessive stress is too costly - a luxury that we can't
afford to have.
How can you effectively deal with stress? What's the role
of the I AM principle?
The I AM principle is an acronym that corresponds to the three
practical ways to effectively deal with tension: Ignore trifles,
Accept the things that can't be changed, and Move on.
What are trifles? Trifles are by definition small, superficial,
inconsequential, unimportant, insignificant entities. Office
politics, unfair rumors, bigot's opinion, unpolished shoes,
prolonged traffic, and stained shirt are good examples. Trifles
in general don't matter in the great scheme of things.
Why are people then so preoccupied with trivial things?
People focus on trifles because there is nothing big going
on in their lives. Some people, despite the presence of major
things in their lives, prefer to focus on the trivial for
fear that the "big ones" will overwhelm them. Some prefer
to rot in the comforts of inactivity for fear of failure.
Still others use trifles to escape from the reality of hard
work and perseverance and to deviate ones attention from the
pressing and yet life-changing events. And others focus on
the unimportant to justify their current poor predicament.
Of course, it's more convenient to focus on the insignificant
yet easy endeavor rather than focus on the vital yet difficult
Whatever the purpose it serves, trifles are wastes of time
that should be relegated to the trash without hesitation.
Accept things that can't be changed
Dwelling on things beyond your control is disastrous. Just
imagine trying to change the weather, the past, your physical
looks, or where you're born?
I remember an elderly man who died unhappy and broke. While
still alive, he questioned his father's will (certified to
be genuine) which he declared as unfair. He fought his siblings,
went to court, annoyed his own lawyers, and agitated his wife
and children. In the end, he lost all $1 million inheritance
money due to lawyer's fees and court appearances.
People end up in psychiatrist's couch because of this sad
predilection. A lot of stresses, neurosis, and conflicts arise
by trying to change the unchangeable.
Learning to accept things the way they are is a virtue. Although
initially difficult, acceptance has its reward - peace of
After ignoring the trifles and accepting the unchangeable,
moving on is the next important step. The focus should be
on life-changing goals, on things that matter. Moreover, one
should focus on things that can be improved and resolved.
Life is change. Life is in constant motion. Stopping its motion
is like allowing a river to stagnate and die.
Have a life. Move on!
Dr. Michael G. Rayel, author of First Aid to Mental
Illness, is a clinician, expert, and a speaker. As an advocate
of first aid for mental health, he has established seminars
and workshops on the subject.