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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mental and Physical Stress

By: Bill Reddie

All people experience stress and anxiety in one form or another.
Sometimes it can be helpful but if allowed to become chronic, it
produces a physically debilitating, unhealthy and destructive
mind-set that actually increases stress levels and lowers immune
system efficiency.

Generally speaking, helpful stress is similar to a wakeup call
that motivates one to (a) do something that needs to be done or
(b) accomplish something that is beneficial and constructive. It
is goal-oriented and usually contains a promise of material
reward or personal attainment.

Another source of stress is that created as the result of
unfortunate natural events such as floods, quakes, hurricanes,
and the like.Â

However, in today's fast moving and competitive world the most
commonly mentioned stressful situations are usually those
created as the result of day-to-day human interaction.Â
Since all humans are conditioned since birth by familial,
social, religious and other forces, human interaction takes
place within the confines of that conditioning. Because of this,
the resolution or prolongation of stressful, anxiety filled
situations will, more often than not, depend upon how we respond.

Some people become a bit uneasy when told that their stress
problems are basically a mental condition. To them, that
diagnosis suggests they are flirting with the looney bin and in
some manner, displaying deficiency and lack of control.Â

In their view, stress is something created by someone or
something outside of themselves such as a boss, co-worker,
dead-end job, traffic, competition, not enough time or money, a
dysfunctional family, marital issues, et al. In some cases this
viewpoint may be true.

But as the saying goes, "it takes two to tango" which is a
rather old-fashioned but still valid way of saying that when
stress begins to negatively affect our health and the manner in
which we function, we need to take a good hard look at our own
participation in what is happening around us.

Granted, we all live in an over-stimulated, stressful world and
in the midst of all that, it's often difficult to maintain a
sense of equilibrium. Why?

Well, much of the time, our own perspective gets in the way of
corrective action. When trouble brews, we tend to stoke fires
rather than put them out by allowing our emotions to inflame
issues and influence how we think and act. In other words, we
allow ourselves to react in a manner that actually produces more
stress rather than minimizing it.

Don't think so? Here's a hypothetical example:
Bob works for a company that is going through some corporate
downsizing and he has just discovered that a co-worker has been
spreading rumors about him that are intended to discredit him in
the eyes of management.Â

He doesn't want to appeal to management for support because most
likely, they will not be pleased with being dragged into what
would appear to be a petty employee situation.Â

He decides to ignore the problem hoping it will go away but
soon, word gets back to him that the co-worker is now informing
others that Bob is unhappy in his present job and will soon be
leaving his current employer for a better position with a
competing company. Bob becomes increasingly alarmed and
emotional over the unfairness of it all.Â

Added to that, his anxiety has led him to imagine that the
-worker and a member of management have become a bit chummy of
late. That convinces him that management is now actually
observing every move he makes and his job must surely be in

He's irritable, continually on edge, his gut hurts and lately,
he's been bringing the problem home. Not good.

Finally, Bob snaps. He angrily rushes over to the co-worker's
desk and within hearing distance of other staff members, begins
shouting and leveling accusations. The co-worker is stunned by
the unexpected onslaught but to his credit, maintains a level
attitude throughout the tirade.

After Bob simmers down a bit the co-worker quietly reveals
information that proves he could not have had anything to do
with the situation. Embarrassed, Bob apologizes and wonders who
the real culprit can be.Â

After discussing the matter with his co-worker, it becomes
obvious to them both that they have been cleverly manipulated by
someone else in the company who had been previously turned down
and by-passed for the position Bob now holds. This person had
tried to cover his tracks by telling everyone that the rumors
were originating from the co-worker whom Bob had confronted (a
rather Machiavellian twist, don't you think?)

Let's consider how Bob could have handled his problem in a less
stressful manner:

Upon becoming aware of the problem, Bob's first mistake was in
doing nothing and hoping the problem would go away. He should
have immediately drawn the co-worker aside and discussed the
problem in a more rational and less emotional manner.

Had he done so, both he and the co-worker would have quickly
discovered what was really going on - and he would have
prevented his own conditioning from triggering an embarrassing,
irrational and emotional outburst based upon non-factual and
paranoid assumptions.Â

By maintaining his cool, the co-worker was able to prevent
further disintegration of the situation. His quiet display of
reason and control was, however, an exception to the
norm...because in the face of anger and hostility, objectivity
often suffers.Â

When people become the recipients of a verbal frontal attack,
the tendency for most will be to respond in kind, thereby
effectively fanning the flames. Why? Because just like the
antagonist, the recipients are also conditioned, fearful and
defensive and more often than not, they'll react negatively to
what they interpret as a personal threat.

Luckily for Bob, the co-worker kept his own emotions in check
and effectively brought understanding to the situation by
remaining calm and sticking to the truth or facts.

By now it should be obvious that procrastination does nothing to
resolve stressful situations. A more productive way is to take
corrective and positive action as quickly as possible by
applying a few simple but emphatic rules:Â

1. Search out the facts or truth regarding the situation 2. Do
not assume anything 3. Get to the root of the problem!

When stressful situations arise, don't allow your emotions to
dictate how you will respond or react - you could be going
ballistic for all the wrong reasons. Observe the facts, remain
objective and resolve the problem as quickly as possible. In so
doing, you'll save yourself a lot of future pain and you'll be
much happier and more able to function effectively in a
stressful and competitive world.

1 comment:

  1. stress is a very common problem. i get really stressed out when i get mad. you're right about taking things objectively. thanks for the post!