Stress Is Subjective AND Objective

Here is a simple analogy about stress I read in

“A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, ‘The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.’ She continued, ‘The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.’”

A wonderful experiment.  An insightful analogy with which we can resonate.

But inevitably something gets lost in the translation, as in “translating into reality.”  A fundamental question is:  How do we recognize that which has weighed on our minds as stress?  So many of us wear stress like a security blanket that we sincerely do not see it as stress.  We are a lot more comfortable with the familiar than the uncertainty brought about by change, even if we recognize the good in a change.  In addition, many cultures teach people to be resilient, if not downright stoic.  In such an environment, when people talk about their stress, often and repeatedly (surely a sign of stress?), they maybe regarded as “whiners.”  At most workplaces, to admit that we are under stress may signal to colleagues, and more importantly, our bosses, that we are not competent to handle our jobs.

It’s a cliché that half of the battle of counseling is the first step of seeking counseling.  In fact, recognizing the need is about ¼ of the work; another ¼ of the work is acknowledging the negativity that external sources throw at the person.  The process of counseling sessions takes time but is relatively less onerous than these initial internal and external barriers.

"Our lives are never stressful, are they?"

“Our lives are never stressful, are they?”

It seems like the majority of organizational stress (and perhaps personal stress too) is the knowing-doing gap we have to cross.  We know we need to reduce our stress, but how?  Everyone’s stress point is different from others.  We tend to think, “My stress is unique.”  This is just another way of not really addressing stress.  Basically, is it really that simple to “put the glass down?”  In dealing with stress at work, I think it is far more effective and reassuring if a manager can demonstrate her willingness to discuss work-related stress and offer outlets for her people.  Equally important, a manager should take some such outlets himself as well.

A classic snippet of advice offered to a new manager: “Take up a hobby where you can hit something.”  Do you have examples of dealing with stress effectively, at work or otherwise?

I wish you success in dealing with your stress.  Till next time,

Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.

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