• Dr Jacob D. van Zyl

Me and Tree Blog 13


In the previous two blogs I focused on a broad spectrum of causes of stress; as well as more specific causes like unresolved conflicts from the past; tension between the true and ideal self; immoral / unethical behavior; as well as stress in the context of society;

work related stress; the pursuit of material things; your craving for pleasure and immediate satisfaction.

In this blog I would like to advice you in the handling of stress from a psychological perspective.

The handling of stress from a psychological perspective


Prevention is always better than cure.

Some time ago I counselled a couple who had been married for thirty years. The wife wanted to leave her husband. She said that she had kept silent about things that had bothered her about her husband and things in the marriage all this time. At the time she experienced intense stress – she felt she had reached breaking point. Her husband was totally unaware of these things. According to him they had a good marriage. He thought she was happy… It is almost impossible to save such a marriage because the damage that had built up during the course of thirty years had become insurmountable. The importance of prevention becomes very clear through this tragic story. Be aware of potential stress and act upon it. If you experience tension upon tension in your relationship, and you deny or repress it, it will inevitably lead to stress. The first preventative measure is to ensure frequent and effective communication. So many people tend to unconsciously just live with their problems without addressing them. This is denial and creates inner stress. Unaddressed problems build up over years and ultimately becomes a crisis. It becomes like an infestation of weeds smothering a whole garden. Or like an untreated virus that can kill the tree.

Identify your underlying problem/s

The question you need to ask yourself in this regard, is: What is the possible underlying problem? When you have identified the problem, e.g. what is causing my insomnia, you can take the necessary action to address the problem. It might include more physical exercise or discussing your problem with other role players. Your insomnia could be related to a relationship which is out of kilter.

Therefore you need to confront the problem and make an appointment with the particular person to talk things over. It is not always easy to follow through with such a decision. The person could be your employer who has made life difficult for you for several years. Nevertheless, it is still very important to communicate the aspects which bother you. It can be done directly or indirectly.

Your problem with insomnia will not be resolved by only taking sleeping tablets on a regular basis. If it is difficult for you to do it yourself, someone such as a psychologist can help you to identify the problem. It often lies on an emotional level. It could be the memory of a traumatic incident from your past that is stuck in your unconscious. This blocks your own creativity towards finding a solution. Every time that stress works in on you, the intensity and negative energy of your underlying problem comes to the surface in the form of depression, anxiety, stress or other symptoms.

Maybe it is time to seek help

Do you find it difficult to address your problem constructively?

Have you tried all possible channels in order to handle the problem/s creating stress in your life?

Are all the doors closing in on you?

Are you feeling trapped by seemingly insurmountable problems creating more and more stress in your life?

Do you feel as if your roots are losing its grip? Or if you are being over shadowed by the problem? Then the time has come to seek psychological assistance for your problem. Due to subjective involvement one can easily lose perspective, with the effect that the problem assumes greater proportions than the reality thereof. Then the problem feels overwhelming. The mole heap becomes a mountain. The therapist or a person in a ‘helping’ profession, can help you to identify the underlying issues rationally and analytically. This person can also explore the problem with you on an emotional level. You can work this through in therapy so that you can view it from a new perspective – a perspective which can create a climate in which you can be empowered to find the best solutions to resolve your problem.

In the next two blogs I will focus on different ways to combat stress, like monitor and control your thoughts; physical exercise; self-relaxation and to manage your stress reactions.

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