Robert B. Jordan
Many times during my years in the aerospace industry, I received periodic notices from the Human Resources Department for Stress Management classes I should attend. I was in a position that involved the negotiating, and administering large and complex contracts. Our customers included various agencies of the US Government, and other aerospace companies. It was a position that could cause stressful situations, both internally and externally. I assume most large and progressive businesses promote managing stress for their employees. A noble cause, but misguided in my opinion.
I never attended a stress management class. I told Human Resources to let me know the minute they offered a stress avoidance class. I had no interest in managing stress, or reducing stress, I had intense interest in avoiding it altogether.
Over the years I have come to believe that stress, like guilt, is self-induced. When you give a situation, or a person (stress carriers) permission to cause you stress, or guilt, then you will have it. If you withhold permission you have a much better chance of avoiding it, and avoiding should be the goal.
Let me be clear that I am not a doctor nor do I have formal training in this subject. What I do have is years of experience personally, and through observation and association. I have seen many instances of someone struggling with a situation that causes stress. This essay does not offer advice, or suggest medical cures, it is simply one man’s opinion formulated by direct contact with many types of “stress carriers.”
Every situation, or condition, that could cause stress has a moment when it transitions from a normal situation, or condition, to one with
stress. During that moment is when you grant your permission, or not. It is the moment when you recognize impending stress and accept it, or avoid it. Sounds so simple, but is it?
Experts offer many suggestions to manage or reduce your stress. You can write it down, you can get a massage, you can do yoga, you can meditate, who can cast out the negative emotions, you can go for a walk, you can read a good book, curl up with a pet etc. All of that is good advice, except it all allows that you have induced yourself with stress, and are now looking to manage or reduce it.
Over the years I have encountered many stressful situations, both professionally and personally, and there were times I self-induced. It took numerous episodes before I realized that avoidance was the better condition. But how do you avoid?
It’s all a matter of timing. Earlier I stated there was a moment when a situation transforms into stress. It is in that time period when you have the control to avoid, or perhaps minimize the effect, before it turns into full-blown, painful stress.
There are numerous situations that can be “stress carriers”; most are either in the workplace, or at home. Some concern relationships, some concern money, some concern behavior, some concern workloads or deadlines, and some concern health issues. Whatever the form the “stress carrier” takes there is a moment when it is a normal situation or condition.
All “stress carriers” present you with a problem. They present challenges. They test your patience and your knowledge and your fortitude. They are asking for your permission to cause you stress, make you feel miserable, and induce potential health problems. So, what do you do to avoid giving permission, and thus avoid or minimize stress?
The first thing is recognition – is this situation a “stress carrier”? In nearly all cases you can make that determination right away, and if it is, what to do? Start with defining it, analyzing it, dissecting it, and looking for solutions. The absolute worst thing you can do is ignore it – that is a guaranteed 100% mistake.
“Somehow our devils are never quite what we expect when we meet them face to face.” Nelson DeMille
There are solutions for everything. Some are complete solutions, some are partial, and some are compromises. A mentor once told me he could solve every problem presented to him, he could not be stymied. Give him the facts, some time, a table, a couple of chairs, and the parties involved and he would solve the problem, perhaps with compromises, but it would be solved. There are two lessons here; > have the courage to face the situation, > and have a confidence you can solve it.
There are many things that will happen to you that are outside your control, but what you have complete control over is the manner in which you handle them.
“Rule number one is don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule number two it’s all small stuff.” Robert Eliot
WHAT TO DO
It is imperative to recognize a “stress carrier” at the right moment, face it, deny permission, and find a solution. Part of the solution may cause some momentary tension, some momentary apprehension, and maybe even a little momentary panic. Not everyone handles potential stressful situations the same way. Avoiding stress is easier for some than for others. It may not work for some personalities, but even if one could cut out 50%, or 30%, or even 10% wouldn’t it give more ease? I do not believe that stress can be avoided in 100% of the situations, 100% of the time, by 100% of the people. I do believe that once one accepts that stress is self-induced they take ownership and can deal with it in a much more effective manner. It may just may turn out to be a question of problem solving.
If one owes a car payment, or a house payment, and they don’t have the money, hiding from it is a self-induced stress. Facing the shortfall by calling the car dealership, or the mortgage company, and solving the dilemma is far better than ignoring the problem. Usually one can work out a solution, if faced head-on. You can not solve anything by ignoring it.
Personal stress causing situations are more difficult because of the emotions involved, but it is always better to face them, and solve them, rather than have them become even more divisive.
Work stress may be because of deadlines, work overload, impossible demands by a superior, etc. Again, confrontation and negotiation work far better than neglect.
I believe that stress can be eliminated, or reduced, if you can come to grips with the fact that “stress is self-induced.” Once you do, then stress can be self-extracted, or at least reduced.