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- STRESS MANAGEMENT Denial: Are You Sweeping Stress Under the Rug? ~ Lisa Birnesser
Denial can be a defense mechanism that helps you to adapt to a changing situation. It can buy you a little time to work through acceptance of an issue. It can also be harmful when used by refusing to accept current circumstances or lessen the outcome of a situation.
Usually denial pops up when there are significant or traumatic situations happening in your life, such as a significant illness, loss of job, or addiction. Denial can also happen when you are running on adrenaline, full throttle. Overlooking your high level of stress to get things done is a recipe for exhaustion-physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Getting past denial would require admitting there was a problem in the first place. Your first reposnse to a situation might be “This can’t be happening.” When this defense mechanism becomes a mess is when you continue to deny the truth of a situation. In other words, you choose not to take control of you or the situation at hand.
Many years ago, I worked on a psychiatric unit as an occupational therapist. My job was to help people find different ways to cope with their problems. I remember working with a patient, whom I’ll call Jan, that denied she had a problem with stress. “I just have to keep going. There’s no one else that can do the work I do at home or at the office. There is no other way. I don’t have a problem with working like I do. It’s everything else that causes me problems.” Jan looked worn, and anxious, as she sat curled up in the chair next to me dressed in hospital whites. She had just attempted suicide a few days earlier. Her denial was so strong that she couldn’t see that she had the power to change her life. Jan worked very hard in group therapy and began to break through her denial. She began to see that she didn’t have to play superwoman anymore.
One of the techniques I taught was to gain feeback from friends and family. But the trick was developing the skill of listening of the patient. The patients also learned certain actions that denial was a problem, such blaming other people, places and things. Another skill I taught was journaling everyday. It’s a great way to see whether you are falling back into old habits. Writing out your feelings can open up your awareness to help break through denial. One practice I used was to ask myself what I was afraid of happening. Writing it down helped me see what was really going on.
Check into today and see if your sweeping stress under the rug.