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.
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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 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
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
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.
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/