Jeff Davidson's book, Simpler Living, was Amazon Kindle #1 in its category, first quarter, 2012. Jeff is featured in the NY Times, Forbes, Chicago Tribune, Businessweek, Fortune, Organized Executive, and Success.

Befriending Your Stressors

You dwell in a world where the probability of encountering stimuli that result in stress is high. Is your stress, however, unique to you? After all, what stresses me out may have no impact on you whatsoever, and that which I breeze through may stop you cold in your tracks.

The answer is yes: Your stress, generally speaking, is unique to you.

Consider this scenario, discussed in my book, Breathing Space: Living and Working at a Comfortable Pace in a Sped Up Society. You’re stalled in traffic on the interstate highway on a sweltering day in August, when your air car conditioner conks out.

On top of that, today you happened to wear a wool tweed suit with no underwear. Do you feel justified in being irritated? Other choices are available. While most people would agree that this is a stressful situation, majority rule does not make it so. There are many people that would interpret this situation in an entirely different way and not experience significant stress at all.

Instead, you could choose to acknowledge the good life you’re leading; hum your favorite song; remember when you’ve been stuck before and how the ordeal was of no consequence the next day. You could be glad that you live in this country; about what’s planned for dinner this evening; or that your kids are healthy. How you elect to feel is always your choice.

The act of choosing is a simple, but powerful technique that will further aid you in attaining what “breathing space”.

A useful exercise in understanding what’s stressful to you and why is to trace back the origins of your belief system. Larry Wilson, the founder of the Wilson Learning Company, subsequently sold to John Wiley & Sons, explains that many people experience being late for an appointment as stressful because they attach a whole lot more to the event. So, you’re late for an appointment. “What does that mean?”

  • It could mean that you probably are going to incur the wrath of the prospect.
  • You may not make a sale.
  • If you don’t make a sale, that means your income could suffer.
  • You may not make quota that month.
  • What does that mean? It means your boss may lean on you even harder.
  • You may lose your job.
  • What if you don’t find another job?
  • You might not be able to take care of your family.
  • If this goes on for too long, you might find yourself in poverty.
  • In extreme situations, you may even starve.
  • You may even starve to death.
If this scenario seems a little overly developed, consider this, for some people, being late for an appointment is like starving to death. Who knows, maybe it’s embedded some place in their genetic makeup.

Correspondingly, consider the potential stress of being rejected by someone. You ask someone to go out with you. (This could be a woman asking a man, you know!) The other person says no. You feel rejected, but it’s deeper than that. He or she said no. What does that mean?

  • That could mean that they didn’t find you attractive, or desirable.
  • Maybe you’re not worth the time.
  • Or, you are unattractive, undesirable, or worse, unlovable.
  • What if he or she is right?
  • Perhaps you’ll never find anyone.
  • You might live your whole life alone.
  • Maybe you’ll never find a mate.
  • You’ll never have sexual satisfaction.
  • You’ll go through life as a reluctant bachelor, or a spinster.
  • You won’t be part of important social circles.
  • You won’t have children.
  • And certainly, you won’t have grandchildren.
  • No heirs.
  • Nothing to leave behind.
  • There will be no heritage.
  • Historians will reflect on these shortcomings in your life, if you become famous.
  • You’ll have lived a drab and despicable existence.
If this sounds way too far fetched for you, consider that for some people the stress of being turned down by another when having posed a social invitation is synonymous with being lonely for the rest of one’s life.

Mark Victor Hansen, who was a neat guy even before he found world wide fame with Chicken Soup for the Soul, told me that there’s a key phrase he recites to himself whenever he encounters rejection: “Next!”

Suppose you’re a high school student and you just got rejected by one of your top choices of colleges. It’s still early in the year, you’ve always been a good student. Nevertheless, what kind of scenario might ensue?

“I got rejected from one of the colleges I was really counting on getting in!” What does that mean?

  • Maybe they’ll all reject me.
  • Maybe I won’t get into college at all.
  • Then I won’t get the proper education.
  • I won’t meet the right kind of people.
  • I’ll get a low-paying job.
  • I’ll live in low cost housing.
  • I’ll fall out of my circle of friends.
  • I’ll work at a menial job.
  • I’ll be old before my time.
  • I’ll have to live off of social security.
  • But social security’s going bust.
  • What’s the use? I’ll probably starve.
Not so curiously, the over stressful reaction to getting rejected from a college, although on balance is larger than getting rejected on a sales call, can invoke the same type of response in people. For some, the underlying fear is that they’ll starve to death or be a social reject.

If these are the kinds of equations that are hard wired into the deep recesses of your consciousness, or who knows, even more chilling, perhaps your unconsciousness, it’s easy to see why such relatively minor events can provoke highly stressful reactions within you.

Instead of viewing your stress in a negative manner, view it in a positive manner. By viewing the stress that you experience as beneficial, it can start to lose power. When you confront the stress that you experience as a problem, you remain in conflict. Viewing stress as an indication of what you need to work on, to feel better, makes it a stepping stone for opportunity.

Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®," is a preeminent time management authority, has written 65 mainstream books, and is an electrifying professional speaker, making 886 presentations to clients such as Lockheed Martin, Eckerd, Kaiser Permanente, IBM, American Express, Lufthansa, Swissotel, Re/Max, USAA, Worthington Steel, and the World Bank. Jeff is Executive Director of the Breathing Space Institute and the author of books such as:
  • Simpler Living (Skyhorse Publishing)
  • Dial It Down--Live it Up (Sourcebooks)
  • The 60 Second Innovator (Adams Media)
  • Breathing Space (CreateSpace)
  • Accomplishing Your Goals (Smart Guide Publications)
Jeff is the premier thought leader on work-life balance issues and has been widely quoted in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, USA Today, Businessweek, Forbes, and Fortune. Cited by Sharing Ideas Magazine as a "Consummate Speaker," Jeff believes that career professionals today in all industries have a responsibility to achieve their own sense of work-life balance, and he supports that quest through his website

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