When I was doing my PhD I developed a stomach ulcer as a result of all the pressure I was putting on myself to succeed. Going to the university medical centre, the primary care physician/general practitioner there told me that the solution was to be less stressed. Very helpful advice, no? You would have thought that being a university health centre, providing information on stress management would have been a fairly high priority, competing with reducing the number of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and UDIs (unidentified drinking injuries). However, sadly the staff there seemed far more interested in being patronising, getting home early and (in the case of one doctor) feeling up their patients. That is, however, another story.
If someone is feeling stressed, possibly the least helpful thing you can say to them is ‘relax’. Similarly to my doctor telling me to be less stressed, this is focussing on the end result rather than the method needed to get there. Suggesting a few deep breaths and feeling the ground beneath their feet is likely to be much more effective and actually achieve the result of relaxation.
In the early stages of my illness I found it very hard to cope with all of the changes in my body and a friend of mine suggested that I made a list of the things that I could control and the things I couldn’t and encouraged me to concentrate my energies on the things that were in my control. These included, what I ate, how much activity I did, the health professionals I worked with and (to some degree) the attitude I adopted. Getting well (the desired end result) was something that I could not directly affect but only through the methods I adopted.