I have this instant stress reliever I recommend to clients, but few of them believe me.
Monday, I had a meeting with a client I’ll call Jeff. Jeff talks about how stressed he is. It seems his company recently had a round of layoffs and now there is a strong rumour circulating throughout the organization that round 2 is about to begin.
Jeff tells me the uncertainty of not knowing whether he will survive the rumoured layoffs is keeping him awake at night; he is experiencing relentless headaches and is “stressed to the max.”
Tuesday, meeting with another client I’ll call Greg. Greg talks about how stressed he is. It seems that he and his wife are fighting constantly about everything. Money. Kids. In-laws. Paint colours. There is no end to it. He can’t do anything right and he is “stressed to the max.”
Wednesday, meeting with a client I’ll Rosalyn. Rosalyn talks about how stressed she is. It seems her boss is a world class you-know-what. He is on her case about everything. He has no respect for boundaries and thinks nothing of keeping her at work well into the evenings and emailing assignments on weekends. She is -you guessed it- “stressed to the max.”
A Different Sort of Epidemic
Earlier this week I went with my wife Gimalle, a retired police officer, to the funeral of a fellow cop she had known for many years. This was one of many, many police funerals we have attended, almost all people in their late forties and early fifties who had died within just a few short years of retiring from their police careers.
Naturally the conversation turned to the number of premature deaths among this close-knit community with the general consensus being that “stress of the job” played a key role in these early deaths.
Searching for a Stress Reliever
So why are toxic levels of stress so pervasive in our society? Besides you know, the global pandemic, political upheaval and the inflation we’ve all heard so much about.
Experts tell us that stress is the effect we feel from the accumulated pressures of life’s non-stop challenges. They also tell us to seek out a stress reliever, because that type of stress is bad for us.
Stress affects out health adversely. It raises our blood pressure. It shifts our hormones and causes weight gain. It eats away at us. Sometimes it even kills us.(Click to Tweet)
I have one shift you need to make to your life, and if you do it, your stress will subside. I promise. Here’s what you do.
Stress is in Your Mind
My stress reliever works, but many people can’t bring themselves to try it. They reject my premise about stress altogether.
You see, I have a theory; stress doesn’t exist.
We create it. It is self-inflicted. Why would we do that, you ask?
Because we have taught ourselves to believe that stress is the only available and normal response to adverse pressure and that we have no choice other than to take it on.
Correlation is Not Causation
I believe that we take one event (Jeff’s concern about his job) and another occurrence (Jeff’s stress) and assume they are inexorably connected. However, Jeff’s job and Jeff’s stress are not a singular event. Jeff has connected them as if job and stress are cause and effect.
They actually have nothing to do with each other. They are only as related as Jeff makes them.
The stress he’s feeling isn’t from the potential for a job loss. The stress is caused by the meaning Jeff is giving to his potential job loss.
That meaning is something that Jeff chose, from many other choices.
Instead of stress, Jeff could choose to make his looming job loss mean an exciting opportunity to discover new possibilities.
Certainly many people are choosing to leave their jobs right now. They’re essentially facing the same thing, just choosing a different perspective on it.
Jeff could do this too. He could look forward to the chance to find an employer that would really value him and the talent/skills and intellect he brings. He could intentionally choose to view his job loss as time to sit back and watch a few sun rises while contemplating a different future.
Or, he could simply remind himself that he can only do what he can do, he can’t control other people, and he’ll deal with problems that crop up, as he always has.
It’s Your Choice
Any one of these mindsets would have filled him with a strong, optimistic sense of purpose.
Instead, he chose this possibility to mean worry and fear and a whole slew of self-damaging emotions which he lumped together and called stress.
He didn’t have to do that. Nor did Greg or Rosalyn.
You see Jeff’s situation is what it is. That’s true for all of us. Whether we love it, hate it or anything in the middle. Often we can’t control it, but we can and do always control its meaning.
Which means we get to choose the impact it has on us.
Till we read again.