“Hey Jen!”--S-T-R-E-S-S Stresses Me Out!

by Jenny Addis

MW reader asks...Hey Jen! How do you manage stress?

Stress! Just thinking about the word stresses me out! Where do I begin? The typical, everyday stresses we all face, such as work, school, bills, children...the list can go on and on. I'd like to say that my life is stress-free--that I handle it with grace, patience and don't let anything stress me out--but that would completely untrue!

One thing I've learned through my adversity is that everything is a million times harder when you are missing your health in the equation. Like a good majority of MW readers, I'm living life confined to a wheelchair, as a quadriplegic. I had no idea what others in this capacity went through until adversity hit me. I went from being a completely independent woman to a woman completely dependent on others, in every aspect of my life, all in just the blink of an eye. I thought I knew what adversity meant, but I really had no idea until I was facing it head on.

For example, I have a very strict daily routine, due to the fact that I need caregivers to help me throughout the day. On a regular basis I get up in the morning and go to bed at the same time. My caregivers help me with everything from getting out of bed, showering, my bowel & bladder regimens, dressing, assisting me with my hair & make-up, preparing meals and range of motion. These are only a few of the tasks within a 2-3 hour period of my morning routine. Not to mention, I don't drive, so I need someone to not only drive me to and from my speaking engagements, social events and running errands, but also help me with catheterizing, my meals, medications and anything else I may need during the time I am outside my home. As you can see, it is essential for me to have a detailed and clear schedule every month to help minimize my stress level a great deal.

If you are an able-bodied MW reader, imagine everything you do throughout your day, whether it’s related to personal hygiene, work or family. Now imagine needing someone to do those tasks for you or assist you in some way. I remember an incident, a month or so after my paralysis, where I was home alone for a short time and decided to practice writing my name when I accidentally dropped the sheet of paper on the floor and, of course, I didn't have the capability to pick it up. I remember staring at that thin, white and 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper down for hours, with tears pouring out of my eyes. I was completely stressed out and upset until someone came home to pick that darn piece of paper up off the floor. All that stress and wasted energy...all over one simple piece of paper!

Keep in mind; this type of scenario has happened to me on most days since, whether I'm dropping paper, pens, food, remotes or telephones. Today, 13-plus years later, I do not stare the paper down anymore. It takes a conscience effort, but I don't stress myself out over the little things if I can help it. I have an accessible desk with an array of paper, a drawer filled with pens and more than one telephone readily available. I've adapted to the physical challenges in my life, as best I can. If I hadn't changed my reactions, I would have lost all control by now!

As I was writing this entry, I decided to look up "stress management" on the Internet and approximately 16,300,000 results popped up. 16,300,000! I decided to start at the top of the list and found a link called HELPGUIDE.org. “Stress Management - HOW TO REDUCE, PREVENT, AND COPE WITH STRESS.” As I read it, I found an exercise that I thought was helpful and I'd like to share that with you.

It suggests starting a stress journal. A stress journal can help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed, keep track of it in your journal. As you keep a daily log, you will begin to see patterns and common themes. Here are the steps to beginning your stress journal. Ask yourself these four questions and write them down:

1. What caused your stress? (Make a guess if you’re unsure).
2. How did you feel, both physically and emotionally?
3. How did you act in response?
4. What did you do to make yourself feel better?

The whole idea of starting a stress journal is to help you identify your stressors, how you manage them and then cope. Next, ask yourself whether your coping strategies are healthy or unhealthy, helpful or unproductive? Too often, people cope with stress in ways that create problems rather than fix them. Here are a few unhealthy, but yet common actions people use to cope with their stress:

Excessive drinking
Overeating or under-eating
Using pills or drugs to relax      
Sleeping too much
Taking out stress on others

Remember, these actions are only temporary stress reducers. They actually can cause more damage than good. If your coping methods are not working in your life, emotionally and physically, then learning healthier ways is important, which will require change on your part.

According to HELPGUIDE.org, there are two choices to consider; either change the situation or change your reaction. It also suggests following the four A's when deciding which option to choose: Avoid, Alter, Adapt and Accept. Since everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no “one size fits all” solution to managing it, so experiment with different techniques and strategies. Focus on what works the best for you.

Dealing with Stressful Situations: The Four A’s

Change the situation:
Strategy #1: Avoid unnecessary stress
Strategy #2: Alter the situation
Change your reaction:
Strategy #3: Adapt to the stressor
Strategy #4: Accept the things you can’t change
Strategy #5: Make time for fun and relaxation
Strategy #6: Adopt a healthy lifestyle

Here are some examples of healthy ways to relax and recharge, which are ways I manage stress:

Go for a walk
Spend time in nature
Call a good friend
Light scented candles
Savor a warm cup of coffee or tea
Play with a pet
Get a massage
Curl up with a good book
Listen to music

HELPGUIDE.org suggests reading “Stress Relief: Relaxation Practices that Reduce Stress.”

While writing this entry, I discovered a handful of stressors in my life that I need to change:

* I need to realize it’s okay to say no. I know my limits, but I need to focus on sticking to them, in both my personal and professional life.
* Certain people consistently cause extra stress in my life and I can’t change the relationship, so I must start limiting the amount of time I spend with them and, if needed, end the relationship entirely.
* I must shorten and manage my to-do list better; analyze what's truly necessary, add it to the top of my list and eliminate items that are not important until I find time for them.

* Managing my time better is very crucial as well. When I'm stretched too thin and running behind, it’s hard to stay calm and focused on the big picture, so something that was intended to be fun becomes chaotic.

I know there are certain things in my life I can’t change, so I had to change myself. I've adapted to those inevitable stressful situations to regain a sense of control in my life, just by changing my expectations and attitude. I'm a perfectionist, which I've learned is not a commonality among others, so I've stepped back a degree in that department and I'm much happier now at the end of the day. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. I now try to keep reasonable standards for myself and others. I'm okay with bending a little and accepting something being "good" versus "perfect." I make a conscience effort to focus on the positive aspects in my life, not the negative. Since I've faced adversity, I reflect on all the things I appreciate in my life often, such as the positive qualities and gifts I've been given. When facing major challenges, I try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth. 

In this entry, I was asked how I managed stress personally. I've learned that I am managing my stress in both unhealthy and healthy ways at times. One major stressor I deal with daily is my paralysis. Over the years, I've accepted and embraced my paralysis. I will never be able to change it and all the obstacle and struggles I face on a daily basis, but my reaction to a piece of paper falling on the floor I can alter. I had to decide how I wanted to live my life, whether happy in a wheelchair or angry in a wheelchair. Stress will always exist in our lives, but we can figure out ways to change our reactions to it. I have found that sharing my feelings with a trusted friend is an extremely helpful and healthy stress reliever, as is reading a great book. I discovered "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren a few years back that I read and re-read for inspiration and self-help.

Of course, a little chocolate never hurts either! Lol!


Hey Beth (MW Reader),

Thank you for sharing your opinion, as an able-bodied individual, from "Truths versus Stereotypes"! I applaud you for working in a field that gives back in so many ways and then recognizing that your surroundings are filled with so much more than you've ever known. The amazing advocacy, compassion and sense of humor your clients possess are remarkable! Your thoughts are usually sentiments most people allow to pass by them. Bravo!

Hey Anonymous (MW Reader),

Thank you for the kind words! It is really nice to hear that I'm making a difference in this world. It's a goal of mine to reach at least on individual's life everywhere I go and knowing that I impacted your life is very humbling. I appreciate your comments!

Remember, nothing is too personal in my book, so send your questions to “Hey Jen!” at: mobileHeyJen@gmail.com! Learn more about me and my story at my website: www.InspirationSpeaks.Me.


  1. http://www.vassistanceguru.com/

  2. You are not the common blog writer, man. You certainly have something powerful to contribute to the net. Such a good blog. I’ll be back for more.

  3. The word “Stress” actually relates to wear and tear as when the rubber meets the road on a tire or the brake pads pressing up against the rotor in the wheel. The term as it applies to living organisms was first introduced by Hans Seyle in the 1930’s who defined it as the consequence of the failure of an organism (human or animal) to respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats, whether actual or imagined. Thus stress symptoms are the manifestation of a chronic state of responses to stress triggers that are actually benign. Even a thought can set off the same response mechanism that would be in play while standing in front of a hungry lion. Hence, Seyle’s definition still reaches to the heart of stress management; the idea of the response being inappropriate and engaging in a process of altering ones misperception of pending disaster or imminent danger.

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