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I’ve done some interesting things in my life, but probably one of the most rewarding (personally and for others) was teaching a stress management class. This was several years ago, but the lessons learned through that process have served me well in the ensuing years. I am a type-A, micro-managing, perfectionist (rhymes with witch), which means I create a lot of my own stress. Learning how to manage that which I create as well as the stress that is thrust upon me, has saved my sanity over the years as well as probably avoided having me jailed for assault and battery. (Just kidding, my temper isn’t that bad, and I don’t believe in hitting people.)

Stress management techniques have also come in very handy as I not only deal with my day-to-day stress, but now also contend with the various medical issues that come with RA. There are some nuggets in the stress management course, and I thought I would share some of these with you in the coming blogs.

The first is STP.

STP stands for Stop, Think, Proceed, and it works wonders for mini-crisis management as well as dealing with longer-term issues. When a situation hits, it’s very human nature to react (i.e., run screaming out the door when someone yells fire). Many times that doesn’t result in the best outcome. It’s better to stop (take no action); think (make a plan); and proceed (carry out the plan). Even if it’s a short check list, any plan is better than no plan.

A few years ago, we hosted Thanksgiving dinner for various friends and had a full house. I had set the table the night before, which took a bit of effort squeezing everyone it, and it took every china plate and good silver setting I had. About 10:30 on Thanksgiving morning, when I was in the midst of cooking, one of the people who had initially declined the invitation called to say that he would be joining us after all. Of course I was delighted, but I had no place to put him at the table and I was already stressed to the max trying to get everything cooked and out of the kitchen on time. STP thinking to the rescue. I put my cooking on hold for a minute and quickly thought about what we needed to do to accommodate another guest. I then recruited my husband, who rearranged the table, found another chair, and gave my place setting to our newcomer. I ate off the everyday plates and mis-matched stainless, and no one was the wiser.

The thing that STP thinking does best, I think, is make you prioritize what really needs to get done and helps you with a plan to make it happen. In the above example, I didn’t need to make more food, but I did have to find a place for my guest to sit and eat it. It works with RA, because living with RA is all about dealing with priorities.

Several blogs that I visit have discussed the subject of dealing with a flare. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve only had a couple of times when I absolutely did not feel well enough to get out of bed. But when that happened, STP came in to play. The first thing I did was make a list of what I had on my calendar that day and figure out which ones I could handle remotely, which ones I could postpone or cancel, and which ones required creative handling. Then I added some planning on taking care of myself for the day — big jug of water by the bed, Tylenol and TV remote close by, etc. That done, I was able to effectively handle what I needed to, then focus on taking care of myself.

I believe that stress contributes to so many illnesses. The hormones it releases can create havoc on the body, and while I personally haven’t read anything linking stress and RA, there is evidence that stress can make you more susceptible to illness. Anything we can do in our day-to-day lives to reduce or manage our stress will go a long way in improving our lives and our health. So while you may not use STP to help manage your RA, try it in other parts of your every day life, and reduce your overall stress.

Thanks for checking in.