Apparently, it’s Stress Awareness Month – which seems to last twelve. It’s an opportunity for people to pontificate about how wonderful they are at understanding stress when, in reality, they couldn’t give a hoot about that message in marketing and on social media posts when it isn’t that Month. And I have my own take on stress, born of my reading of some excellent works, and it is this.
Stress is self-inflicted.
Okay, that’s a blanket statement and there are a few qualifiers, but in this Twitter-led world of black-and-white, no-one’s interested in those qualifiers.
Stress is a mental and physical response to stimuli, and we have the ability to choose our response because we are intellectual beings with the ability to think about what we think about, so we can decide to think “Wow that bus nearly hit me! I could be DEAD!” or “Wow, that bus missed me! How lucky am I?” Most otherwise healthy people opt for the first response and start a downward spiral that would stop – if they just chose to take control.
Which is the primary benefit of the art that is called Time Management. Yes, managing the way you utilise your time has a great productivity benefit, but there is huge scientific opinion that being in control is the greatest vaccination against stress there could be. Of course, you can’t prevent nasty things happening, and no-one is pretending that making a positive choice is easy – but if you are clever enough to read, you’re clever enough to pause, consider, mull, and then decide that what happened or is happening will not control you – YOU will control your response to the event.
How do I know this is true? I know because not every war veteran gets PTSD, not every depressive commits suicide, some people thrive on being busy, and people can forgive some serious wrongs committed against them. The difference is not the event, it is the ability of the individual to deal, and they deal by taking charge. Some people’s ability to deal may well be compromised by any one of a number of good reasons, and they deserve sympathy, help, treatment where appropriate.
But if a man like Viktor Frankl can survive a concentration camp, and the experience of seeing his family killed by Nazis, you can cope with an excessive workload. And in that poor analogy, you cope by taking charge of the workload, by staring at it and thinking, “Poor Me.” That approach makes the problem bigger because inaction breeds work. The pile gets bigger if you leave it, not smaller.
(Although in my book Police Time Management I do mention an arguably unethical way I did reduce my workloads by inaction. Not sure I could do that, today. But it’s an interesting thought, surely?)
You want to suffer less stress?