With summer just around the corner many of us are starting to head out to the cottage. The idea behind this annual sojourn is to de-stress, rejuvenate and get away from the daily grind of urban living. Why do we need to wait for vacation time to unwind and experience a more healthy and balanced life? Why not do this throughout the year?
There are essentially two types of stress: one where you see your life flashes in front of you when faced with imminent death or the slow building stress that is associated with work, or personal relationships. How we experience either of these situations will dictate the results we get. The quality of the results is further dependent on whether we see ourselves as victims of our circumstances or in control of how we interpret these interactions.
The research on stress is clear. Stress as a separate entity- is not real. What is real is whether we react or respond to the situations we face. This will leave us looking back on how we handled the situation and feeling either satisfied or dissatisfied with the outcome. When we react to situations we leave everyone, including ourselves feeling worse off. We tend to blame, make excuses and rationalize the reason for our role in the situation to be in our favour. Said another way, we lie to ourselves. A reaction focuses on the perceived problem associated with the challenge being faced. It also represents how the reactor sees themselves, as a victim as opposed to someone who is fully aware that they have a choice on how to behave.
A response comes from a place of pure potential. The responder has an attitude of how can I help? What can I do different to get a different set of results? A responder will do any or all of the following:
- You always leave the person to whom one is responding feeling better than how you found them, or, not make them feel worse off than how you found them.
- You often take time to reflect on what is, and formulate a response based on objective rather than subjective criteria.
- You operate from a place of pure potentials.
- You look for solutions and ways to keep moving forward.
- You often see opportunities for creating solutions rather than problems.
Recently, a client shared his desire to lose weight and get back into shape. A simple question to this client who was a CEO in his organization was, what can you do to make time to eat lunch? (He was skipping lunches and overeating at dinner time). His immediate answer without stopping to think was he doesn’t have any time. Work is far too busy and he usually has noon hour meetings booked. He went on with a long list of why he could not stop to eat lunch at noon. Clearly a victim of his circumstances.
I asked the same question in a different way, when during your work day would you be able to stop for lunch? This time he had to think more and I could see him mentally clearing his calendar to come up with the solution. He did, and several weeks later I saw him and not only was he eating lunch, but leaving the office earlier and now talking with a personal trainer to help him get into shape. Clearly in control of how he interprets his situation.
The experience of this CEO is common with the clients I see for coaching. They get used to operating in a routine so much so that they miss the slow build-up of burning-out and only realize the deep hole they have dug themselves into when they get sick or experience a crisis. The real stress in this CEO’s situation and many others is falling victim to the belief we can just keep on producing at a high level every day without any negative consequences. Even machines and robots have down times for service and maintenance to ensure they keep running at a high efficient level.
How do you stack up to interpreting stress? See how you measure based on your answers to the following questions:
- What activities have you taken on that are adding to an already full-plate?
- Which area of your life have you given up in order to full-fill work and volunteer responsibilities?
- How are you hurting as a result?
- Are you feeling stressed?
- Is it because of stress or the choices you have made?