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Professional Columns -
Relationships by Dr. Bill Austin


We are all acquainted with stress. We experience stress driving on our roadways, in our marriage, at work, and with our schedules. Some stress is necessary, but too much is harmful. Drs. Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe developed a scale for measuring stress in terms of 43 "life events" at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The top three were: death of a spouse, divorce, and marital separation. There were other events that we might not think were stressors, such as vacation, church activities, and a number of family gatherings.

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Each event had a numerical value. For instance, death of a spouse carried a numerical value of 100. If, after adding up the values, the subject had a score of 300 or more, it meant they had an 80 percent of becoming seriously ill. Today, the current thought is that most of us living in this world have a stress count way pass 300. We need to find ways of dealing with stress because we can become ill if it is left unattended.

Think of stress like stretching a rubber band. The band can only be stretched beyond its designed limit a few times until finally it breaks. We are like that rubber band. When stretched beyond our limit, we have to find a way to relieve the tension or our health breaks down.

Think of stress like stretching
a rubber band. The band can only
be stretched beyond its designed limit
a few times until finally it breaks.
We are like that rubber band.

There are several things we can do to reduce the stress we make for ourselves.

1) Learn to plan: We all have known people (or we may be that person) who waits to the last minute to put an activity together. For example, we may wait to the last hour before putting things together for our child's birthday party. We start to panic. Frantically, we run around trying to get things done. We find ourselves uptight and yelling so everyone in our home feels our tension and stress.

Time management can be a major stressor. Some of us do not structure our time so we always seem to run late for appointments. If we are the type of person who hates being late, we find ourselves uptight and driving like crazy to get to our destination.

Conclusion: Disorganization and putting projects off to the last minute leads to stress.

Advice: plan ahead and get organized.

2) Recognize and accept limits: There are those of us who have a difficult time, saying, "no." There are several reasons for our not saying "no." If we are people-pleasers, we have difficulty saying "no" because we want to make everyone like us and make them happy. When we have too many projects, we experience stress because we feel overwhelmed.

If we are perfectionists, we set impossible expectations. Everything has to be perfect and every project, no matter how small, becomes a major job.

Advice: make reasonable and attainable goals and expectations.

We will continue next month with what causes stress and how to deal with it.

Dr. Austin has decades of experience dealing with relationships. He charges clients on a sliding scale according to their ability to pay. His first book, Creating Our Safe Place: Articles on Healthy Relationships, was published in 2004. His second book, Keeping It Safe, was published in 2009 and can be purchased through,, and at the Parrish Book Store in Virginia Beach.  He is also a sought-after speaker at meetings and seminars.

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