How Do You Manage Stress?
Since I was behind on my deadline and needed to hurriedly develop a question and request replies on a tight due date, the topic of stress could not be more apropos this month. It turns out that our colleagues have some keen insights from their own lived experiences, which they share here.
In this column, adopted from the familiar “Heard on the Street” format, we offer our responders a chance to answer the question posed in the title. These are their replies reported verbatim.
STRESS RELIEF IN THE EAST
Managing stress is so important to our health. Exercise has always helped me even if it is a quick walk or sitting and taking a breath. My favorite way to relieve stress is to go outside and look at nature and observe this wonderful earth and ask myself will this matter six months from now? I also have faith everything works out.
Buffalo, New York
When I read the question, how do you handle stress, my first thought was “Probably not as well as I should.” Then I thought, we can’t all handle stress like they do in a Hallmark movie. I’ve heard the ways that we should handle stress. Step back, take a breath, pray on it. I’m definitely a work in progress on that. The way that I handle stress is to usually run the scenario past my wife. She is the calming influence on my mini meltdowns. It’s amazing how a calming voice can alleviate a stressful situation.
Since stress is an unavoidable part of life, I believe that finding healthy ways to manage it is imperative. Stress can present itself in many forms, however, being intentional on how you cope with it can make all the difference in improving your life. What works for me, is taking a long walk or having a conversation with a friend. I also like to do yoga every chance I get! I learned the hard way that if you do not manage stress in healthy ways (or at all) then other parts of your life will inevitably suffer.
Asheville, North Carolina
STRESS RELIEF IN THE MID-STATES
For me, stress comes from trying to do it all. Years of failure to accomplish “all of it” has led me to better prioritizing my days (I loved the book The One Thing). If I’m saying yes to you, it means that I’m saying no to someone or something else and I have learned to be OK with that. But if none of those things work, I love a ride in our Jeep. Somehow those always seem to end up involving ice cream and we all know that ice cream fixes anything!
If the stress is work related, I try to “turn off” at the end of the day and just do something different. Physical activity is always good, as is playing music or just spending time with Karen, my wife. If the stress is coming from another area, often times I can get lost in my work, as well as the other things I mentioned. If the stress is coming from an interpersonal relationship, I’ll try to resolve things quickly and move on.
Tinley Park, Illinois
Based on my blood pressure I probably don’t manage it very well! But I do try to keep it under control, and I’ve found that exercise and more frequent vacations are some good ways to reduce stress.
When I feel an excessive amount of stress, I try to get some free time on the schedule if I can. I’ll take a break and remind myself that whatever is bringing the stress, is more my response to it that the situation itself.
Boyd H. McGathey
How do I handle it? When I was young, I cried. Uggh, I hated that, it just happened. Not often but when the stress hit peak, yes, I’m sad to say, I cried. But then I felt better and picked up the pieces and got it done! As I got older, I came to the realization that whatever I was stressed out about might not have been as important as I was making it out to be. Approximately 8 years ago, my husband died at age 57 to a rare form of cancer. That played a huge role in how I handled stress. Suddenly those things that caused stress no longer seemed as stressful. There is perspective in losing a loved one. The really important things in life are not the deadlines that we need to meet, but instead the important items are families and friendships and laughter and health and peace. I realized that in our jobs, no one is going to die if we make a mistake. We are not doctors, whose lives depend on us. If we make a mistake, we own up to it and we fix it. I still strive to meet deadlines so people can trust my word. My work life has changed somewhat to allow that to happen. In the realization of the really important things in life, the more capable I feel of letting much of that stress go!
Bird Island, Minnesota
Stress is usually caused by an unforeseen challenge or feeling overwhelmed. If the stressor is sudden and unexpected, I assemble everyone who needs to be involved, and tackle the issue as a team. We identify the problem, what actionable items can be addressed, and assign a responsible party and a follow up plan. If I’m overwhelmed, it’s a sign that I need to get organized, so I manage it by regrouping. I make a list, (sometimes breaking it into several lists of what is manageable in a given day), I delegate what I can, and then get to work, and continually re-evaluate if I’m properly managing my expectations of myself and others, so that the stress doesn’t build back up.
Managing my stress is hardest when I feel completely overwhelmed. I have to remind myself that I can only do so many things in a day. What helps me most is to make a list of all the tasks I need to accomplish, and then prioritize which are most important. If I need to get an earlier start to my day or put in some extra time at the end of my day, I will do that. Once I begin to check items off my list, I feel so much better!
STRESS RELIEF IN THE WEST
Balance. I have to balance out my day, weeks, and years. It is up to me to say yes or no to those things I put on my calendar. Along with work I have to intentionally schedule in exercise, time with family, play etc. . .
Stress is real. Managing my life to only allow in it the stress that I have to handle and keep at bay the stress that is not under my control—for example, I cannot manage news, fake news or other people’s drama. Sometimes it is hard to know the difference, and that’s when I turn to The Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Baldwin Park, California
Most of my stress comes from my own “PROCRASTINATION”. You would think at my age that I would know that I should only handle papers one time and start a project and ignore all distractions until the project is finished. There are so many things that are more fun or interesting than ”this” project so I allow them to take up my time.
It’s just like when Nancy sends out these questions with such a short response time. She is smart enough to know that given any more time most of us would put off our response and then let other papers or emails pile on top of hers so it would get lost.
Thanks, Nancy, for the short lead time and the reminder that life is less stressful when we “Handle it Once and Get it Done. “
It looks like asking about stress was a question whose time had come. After two plus years of a pandemic, all of us have learned a thing or two about managing the stress that accompanies the unknown, the over-worked, and the human experience. In the spiritual world the Om symbol represents a sacred sound that is known generally as the sound of the universe. Om is all encompassing, the essence of ultimate reality, and unifies everything in the universe. Seems we humans have lately not had our full Om dosage.
Nancy Coop, Cetane Associates
This column was first published in Butane-Propane News in July 2022.