Tips for Managing Stresd
by Josh Hubbell

I thought for my article it might be of use to share some of the tools in my toolbox for dealing with stress and keeping myself healthy in this season.  I picked out my biggest go to tool, The Four Agreements, a wonderful book by Don Miguel Ruiz.  It lays out four simple agreements that you can make with yourself to try and deal with difficulties of all types in life, including the kind of stress we're all dealing with now.   This is of course just a basic look at the tools, for a more comprehensive view of his work, I suggest you look into his book.

Agreement number one, Be Impeccable with your Word.  On the surface this sounds like, tell the truth, but it has a lot of deeper meaning as well.  I like to practice this by being sure to tell my loved ones what they mean to me in this season, and by being honest with people about what I'm comfortable doing or not doing.  The hardest part of this agreement is keeping it with your own self talk.  I have a tendency to be down on myself because I can't be everything for everyone, can't afford the best gifts and so forth, but really that's not what makes someone a good person, and beating yourself up about it is just lying to yourself.

Agreement number two, Don't Take Anything Personally.  This is definitely a moving line more than a goal, I think.  I try at it, and I succeed at times, but I also try and remember that I'm human and can't always catch my emotions fast enough to stop my mouth from running (when) it shouldn't.  In this season I think it's very important to remember that other people are also as stressed out as you are, and likely if you're reading this article you've had a bit more training in dealing with negative emotions than they have, so cut that screaming person in the store some slack.  They aren't screaming at you anyways, they are screaming at themselves and all their own demons.  Not everyone can afford the same money or energy put into the holidays either, so be patient with people doing their best for you and themselves.

Agreement number three, Don't make Assumptions.  Another moving goal, this one is even harder than not taking anything personally.  I think we all get so wired into trying to know what the world around us is doing, that we forget that we really don't know anything except what is in our own heads, and for some of us even that is a bit of a stretch.  I've found the easiest way to combat this is just to ask.  Someone dosen't want to come to a party, ask them why.  Someone isn't comfortable exchanging gifts, ask them why, it's just that easy of a thing and can stop a lot of stress and fighting that no one really needs right now.

Last but not least, Always do your Best.  The hardest part of this one is admitting what your best really is.  In my recovery I've been faced with realizing that what other people can do is often not my best, and that can be a hard pill to swallow.  All of the other agreements lead to this one though, if you’re impeccable with your word, don't take limits personally, and don't assume you can do everything for everyone, you will be doing your best, and you'll see that.  Remember, the agreement isn't always be perfect, because we are rarely, if ever, going to be perfect, but we can always be doing our best.

In closing I hope this helps someone, I know it's been a big help to me and was a part of my recovery before I even knew what recovery was.  It's a scary time in a stressful world, but we can get through it, a day at a time, a second at a time if necessary.  Stay safe, wear your masks, and have a great year next year!


Josh Hubbell is a (unemployed) Peer Support Specialist in the Ames area.  He facilitates many NAMI Signature programs for NAMI Central Iowa and in his copious (see above unemployment) free time enjoys board games, crafting, and his cat.