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The Key To Conquering Stress

Stress isn’t always a bad thing. It’s an internal warning meant to spark change.

It’s the way we react to stress that can sometimes cause problems.

If we respond with better time management, exercise, or even meditation, stress can work in our favor. Its presence means there’s a problem to solve. It’s our job to acknowledge it and take positive action.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult for most people to put this thought into practice. “Too often, we procrastinate, or we ignore it. We tend to be like ostriches, put our heads in the sand, and then things only get worse,” said Dr. Duane DiFranco, senior medical director, Health Care Value at Blue Care Network.

So, how do we change our relationship with stress? How do we receive its benefits as opposed to suffering its consequences? On the latest episode of the A Healthier Michigan Podcast, hosted by Chuck Gaidica, he and DiFranco discuss the biggest obstacle to stress management – you.

The first step to improving your stress response is self-observation. DiFranco introduces a specific exercise that can help identify problematic behaviors called the Four Column Technique. He recommends you do it at the end of each day or following a stressful event.

“The purpose of the exercise is to make you more aware of the types of things that stress you out,” explained DiFranco. To get started, all you need is a pencil and paper. Writing things down may feel old-fashioned but it’s a valuable method that yields positive results.

“There’s a part of your brain that slows down and recognizes things in a very impactful way when the message goes from your brain to your arm, from your arm to paper, from the paper to your eyes, from your eyes to your brain,” DiFranco said.

It’s one of the many reasons the Four Column Technique is so effective. On paper, each column represents a part of the stress cycle.

  • Column One: The Event – This corresponds to the stimulus or the stressor.
  • Column Two: Stress Response Rating – A number from one to 100 that shows how much stress was generated.
  • Column Three: Response – How did I react to it?
  • Column Four: Consequences – What was the end result?

“Research shows that you have to do something regularly for at least three weeks or so before it becomes a habit. So, keep it up. Every day, journal your four columns of self-observation. You do that for three weeks, and you won’t have to think about it anymore.”

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Photo credit: Marcin Wiklik

 

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