There are many sources of stress in our everyday lives. Often these stresses are beyond our control. While it may seem simpler to ignore the stress, in the long run you’re actually creating more problems, not less. You need to understand how to control your stress; how to accept the uncontrollable factors and problem solve the ones you can control.
One’s reaction or attitude towards a particular event or situation is a major factor in reducing stress. For example, if a loved one is late, and you immediately jump to the conclusion that they’ve had an accident, you will experience more stress than if you suspect they are just running behind.
- Controllable vs. Uncontrollable — Know the difference between what you can and cannot control and change. Take action to change those you can. Accept the rest. Ask yourself: “What will happen if I ignore this?”
- Look for the light — Most situations can be viewed from several different angles. Most of the time, it is possible to put a positive spin on a stressful situation. Take a winning attitude.
- Approach a situation as a challenge, not a crisis — Stop worrying and start problem solving. Problem solving is the proactive approach to finding solutions to controllable problems.
- Give yourself credit — Set realistic daily goals and then rejoice in what you accomplish each day. Don’t dwell on what you didn’t get done.
- Perfectionism is not always the answer — Most people want to do a good job, but do not waste time trying to be perfect. If you try to be perfect and things do not work out, it will discourage and stress you even more. Allow for human error.
- Be proactive rather than reactive — When you look at a situation, take charge and become involved – don’t sit on the sideline.
A common situation in many businesses is to have many stressors all at once. Here are some hints to control various situations.
- Don’t procrastinate — Plan ahead and get things done. Before equipment is needed for next season, replace worn parts, change the oil (if necessary), and do regular maintenance. When buildings are empty, clean up and do repairs. Plan ahead financially – including provision for unexpected cash requirements.
- Practice time management and set priorities — List what you want to get done in a day or a week. Rank your plans from one to three, starting with the most urgent. Start with the “1s” and work through your list. If the “3s” don’t get done, they are not that important in the first place. Always expect the unexpected and make contingency plans.
- Prioritize stressors — Decide which stressors which you want to deal with and which you do not. Giving some priority to stressors will help you to send your energy wisely.
- Say no — Many people find this difficult because they do not want to be viewed negatively as a “non-participant.” However, sometimes you just have to refuse extra commitments because you do not have the time. You can still help and give the person requesting your time an alternate suggestion.
- Take the engineer’s approach — Engineers are trained to break big projects into smaller, more manageable parts. As each step is finished, you can celebrate accomplishments.
Reaction and Response Control
If you seriously want to ease stress, the key lies in determining the source.
- Listen to your body — Pay attention to physical, mental and emotional signs of distress, such as fatigue, carelessness, aches and pains. Change your pace or activities.
- Take care of your physical and mental self — Get adequate rest, nutrition, and exercise. Well-nourished, rested people withstand stress better. Those who work in physical environment, such as farming or construction, contend they get enough exercise at work. However by adding walking, dancing or running, for example, you increase your pulse rate and bring fresh oxygen to your muscles. Stress is reduced in the process.
- Take relaxation breaks — Several times a day, take three deep breathes, hold, tense and relax each part of your body. Let your mind wander, where you imagine yourself in some restful spot for a few minutes.
- Balance work and play — Plan time for activities that give pleasure.
- Talk it out — find someone to talk to about your worries and frustrations. Get professional help when needed. There are times when everyone can benefit from mental health agencies, crisis hot lines or private counselors.
- Stop worrying what others think — If you worry too much about your image in the community, you’ll come to question everything you do. How does it look to the neighbors? This type of second guessing further increases stress when things are not going well. Remember, others are more concerned about their own image than yours.
- Look for your own positive feedback — Running a business can be very rewarding, but at times there is very little feedback. Find those things that give you positive feedback. Enjoy it when you are paid a compliment.
- You’re not in it alone — It’s not uncommon to feel isolated. However, there are people (friends, neighbors and family) to help. Lean on them if you need to. Don’t be too proud to ask for assistance.
- Laughter is good medicine — Look for the humour in everything you do. Positive thoughts and humour will help maintain perspective when you tackle serious problems.
Source: Factsheet: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, September 1999.
Written by Peter H. Coughler