Mental and Physical Stress

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Added to that, his anxiety has led him to imagine that the co-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 jeopardy.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

Copyright © 2003-2005 Channel 1 Records All rights reserved

Bill Reddie is the owner of Channel 1 Records, a company that has been producing music for stress relief and stress management since 1972. Further information regarding the beneficial effects of music and its potential for relieving stress, anxiety and burnout may be found at: http://www.channel1records.com

In The News:

Stress Management  Penn: Office of University Communications
Stress management tips for anxious attorneys  North Carolina Lawyers Weekly

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