If they would only change
Your boss is not very understanding of the fact that you have recently lost a loved one and your job is on the back burner for the moment. Your relative has been criticizing everything your teenager does, and you’re worried that your child is not feeling confident. Your spouse has been drinking more than usual, and you are afraid he will lose his job. The homeowner’s association has been sending you letters to paint your house, but that isn’t in the budget at the moment.
There are so many ways the behavior of other people can stress us out. You wish they would change, but you know the truth is, you can’t change anyone else’s behavior but your own.
What chronic stress does to your body
If you experience stress over several months or even years, cortisol signals your brain that you are in danger, and it must shut down some of the body’s less important functions. Your metabolism slows to save energy for battles. Your muscles tense in preparation to move quickly, and your breathing becomes rapid and more shallow. This causes respiratory symptoms, like asthma, or panic attacks. In fact, stress affects every system in your body. You may experience raised blood pressure, cravings for sugar and comfort foods, or brain fog and exhaustion.
What is your go-to trauma response?
Usually, we have a go-to trauma response when someone else’s behavior is stressing us out. Is your response shame, like mine? I always think, “Oh no, I did something wrong. I can try harder or do more.”
Maybe you respond with one of these:
You can't change others, so what can you do?
You can’t change other people’s behavior, but you do have options. Sometimes that other person is not aware they are causing you stress. If they are a healthy person, and you bring it to their attention, they will try to change. Other times, that person is an energy vampire and just won’t want to change at all.
1. Sit in silence and take a few deep breaths.
2. Name what you are feeling:
-sad -angry -afraid
3. Allow yourself to work through the feelings. (Instead of stuffing them down or ignoring them.)
-go for a walk
-scream in your car
-repeat affirmations, “Everything always works out for me.”
-journal (destroy your writing afterwards, so you don’t worry about someone else reading your words.)
4. Address it with the other person if necessary. (This is not necessary if you know they won’t change, or they continually cross your boundaries.)
5. Move on (with or without that person). Set a boundary if necessary. You can read more about boundaries in my post here.
You deserve to live a life that is mostly free from stress. We can’t remove all stress from our lives, but we can certainly make life more comfortable by choosing to surround ourselves with people that appreciate us and respect our boundaries.