by Dr. Donald E. Wetmore
Stress is a killer.
There are some who would say, "there's good stress and then there's bad stress". That's sort of like saying, "there are good heart attacks and then there are bad heart attacks".
Maybe there is some positive benefit to the stresses that will enhance our performance, but, for the most part, stress is a negative, keeping us from performing at peak levels, damaging our daily productivity, and decreasing the chances of our longevity.
Many blame stress on external forces. "We are living in stressful times." "This is a stressful job." "My boss (husband, wife, co-worker, customer, client, kid, etc.) is really stressing me out."
The world is not really a stressful place and these are not really stressful times. There really are no stressful jobs. If any of these were true, then everyone in that community, job, relationship, etc. would be stressed. Some are. Maybe most are. But some are not.
There are many "stress reduction" programs, seminars, and courses out there. Most are effective. But, rather than treat the symptoms, what if we treated the disease and rid ourselves of the causes of the stress?
Most stress is internal, caused by the ways in which we relate to the world and events and people around ourselves. Stress is caused when there is a disconnect between our expectation and our reality. When reality falls short of an expectation, it creates a disappointment and that causes stress.
For example, let us say you drove your car to work today, your car was parked in the nearby parking lot, and you will leave work today at 5:00 p.m. You probably have an expectation that your car will be right where you left it when you got to the parking lot this afternoon. Well, what if you were to discover at 5:00 p.m. that your car has been stolen? I would imagine most of us would feel some stress from finding out about our stolen car!
But, what if you return to the parking lot this afternoon and there is your car exactly where you left it this morning? You insert the key and drive away. Do you experience stress over finding your car where you left it? No, because expectation and reality match up.
While most of us will experience those larger disappointments in life, they are typically few and far between so that our bodies have a chance to cope and recover. Rather, it is all the little disappointments, which seem inconsequential individually, but when added together throughout a day, will really build up the stress. (Dealing with the morning rush hour, not getting things done on time, tasks piling up, personal errands not attended to, etc.)
The solution? Bring your realities up to your expectations. How? Through effective Daily Planning. Make sure that you plan to do the little things you want and expect should be done in addition to all the things you "have to" do during the day. Build a Daily Action list that incorporates both the "have to's" and the "want to's". Prioritize this list and tackle them in the order of their importance to you.
Our goal will never eliminate stress completely but, with more effective planning, we can reduce and stabilize stress.
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