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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Beating the effects of stress - Part 1

 By: Lorne Peasland

All stressed out and nowhere to go? I learned a long time ago that all you get for worry is more of the same, and that if there's nothing we can do about a problem, the best thing we can do is let it go. Like some people say, "Don't sweat the small stuff, and it's all small stuff." Or, like a contemporary song goes, "Get over it". Even the Bible covers the topic, saying "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day."

Stress is a fact of life - always has been. And most of it is the result of our tendency to judge others, or to let their actions and beliefs supercede our own desires. It's caused people to exhibit momentary superhuman feats of strength when confronted with a life-or-death situation, and at the opposite end of the scale it's caused people to take their own lives as a result of an inability to cope with life's challenges. Hopefully, for small business people, it affects them in the former manner.

Fortunately, the subject of stress has studied by some of this century's best minds (and from Canada, too), in psychology, biology, and business, and in the interest of providing our readers with a quick insight into how to make the best of stressful situations, we present the thoughts of three of those minds. The first, Dr. Hans Selye, emigrated from Central Europe to Canada in the 1930s. His fifty-year-old definition of stress is still the best explanation of what it really is: "Stress is the body's nonspecific response to any demand placed on it, whether that demand is pleasant or not."

The second is Dr. Dennis Waitley, whose Ph.D. in human behavior led him to counsel sales and management executives for Fortune 500 firms, Vietnam POWs and Iranian hostages, and Olympic and Super Bowl athletes. Dr. Waitley's book, "Seeds of Greatness - The Ten Best-Kept Secrets of Total Success", is an international best-seller.

The third, and this writer's favourite, is Dr. Peter Hanson, a native of Vancouver, BC, who at age 24 became the youngest physician in North America to hold the position of team doctor for a major league sports franchise. His best-selling book, "The Joy of Stress", with a foreword by his mentor, Sir Edmund Hillary, was described by Dr. Bill Vail, President of the Canadian Medical Association, as "an important book on a crucial subject for men and women alike. It's good medicine." In it, Dr. Hanson documents 12 of the body's specific responses to stress, and how we can lessen their effects.

Dr. Selye condensed his twenty years of research at the University of Montreal's Institute of Experimental Medicine into a 300-page book, "The Stress of Life", and when he was told by his publisher that his explanations were too long and complicated, he summarized his research on ten pages. When he was told it was still too complex, he made it short and simple: "Fight for your highest attainable aim; but never put up resistance in vain." Obviously, his publisher's comments didn't 'stress out' Dr. Selye. His three basic rules for understanding his theories on the stress of life were the topic of lengthy interviews conducted by Dr. Waitley, in 1976:

Rule One - Find your own purpose in life, that fits your own personal stress level. Most of us are either 'racehorses', who thrive on pressure and seem only happen when in the fast lane, or 'turtles', who to be happy need a more paced, tranquil environment. Most of us, according to Drs. Selye and Waitley, are trying to be racehorses, charging through life to finish first, when what we should be doing is finding a purpose that we can respect - our goal - not the goal of our parents or friends. One way to determine whether you are on the right track is to define your own meaning of 'work'. What is it? And can you play while you do it?

Rule Two - Control your emotional level by recognizing situations as being either life-threatening or non-life-threatening. Respond rather than react. Venting your anger is not a healthy thing to do. The act of venting anger is habit-forming, and it indicates low self-esteem. Ninety percent of our confrontations in life are with imaginary predators, which cause us to 'stew in our own juices', doing battle with ourselves, which can lead to a host of stress-related diseases. Learning to adapt to and live with situations rather than reacting in a state of alarm and resistance will insulate us from early exhaustion. Being emotionally upset only draws our energy reserves ahead of schedule, and causes us to run out of life too soon.

Rule Three - Collect the goodwill and appreciation of others. Dr. Selye observed that one of the most effective keys to living is to persuade others to share our natural desire for own well-being. He said this can be done only by making a constant effort to win the respect and gratitude of our fellow-men and women. He rephrased the biblical quote, "Love thy neighbour as thyself", into his own personal code of behavior: "Earn thy neighbour's love". Rather than trying to accumulate money or power, he suggested that we acquire goodwill by doing something that helps our neighbour. "Hoard goodwill", he advised, "and your house will be a storehouse of happiness."

Lorne Peasland is a former advertising agency owner and national media consultant, the founder and past-president

of the Canadian Home & Micro Business Federation, and author of "Influencing Public Opinion - A Communications

Primer For Political Candidates, Community Activists, and Special Interest Group Spokespeople" (ISBN 0-9697364-0-1).

He is a home-based marketing consultant, writer and speaker, and publisher of HomeBizNews, a syndicated Web-based weekly for entrepreneurs. He can be contacted through either of his web pages at or, via e-mail at, or by phone at 250-708-0250.

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