I had a revelation yesterday while I was filling up my water bottle at work. I noticed while I was waiting I was tense, irritated, and furiously tapping my foot. My arms were crossed in front of my body, my shoulders were shrugged up to my ears, and I admit that I rolled my eyes at least once. Let’s just say I was having quite a moment.
While walking back to my desk I thought, “Who was that person? What was so important that I couldn’t take 15 seconds (it literally took 15 seconds – I went back and timed it) out of my day to fill my water bottle?” The answer is nothing. I was not late for anything and there was not an emergency anywhere, but something caused me to react this way.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit and I realized that I see this sort of thing happening everywhere! Think about it. When you’re waiting for an elevator, how many times do you press that button? Or when you’re finally inside the elevator do you immediately reach for the button to close the doors? Then there’s driving! Do you find that you actually get mad at the red light because it’s taking too long? Or maybe that person in front of you didn’t immediately take off as the light turned green so you lay on the horn.
The point I’m trying to make here is that getting frustrated at these little things are silly and can lead to unnecessary stress. We have enough stress in our lives and we don’t need to add to it. But are these little hassles really stressful or is it instead in the way we perceive them?
Hans Selye, a pioneer in the field of endocrinology and stress, said, “It’s not the stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” He was absolutely right! There is a common myth that stress is everywhere and therefore unavoidable. Just like Selye said, it is how we are reacting to our environment, not necessarily the environment itself. Is it the traffic that is really stressful, or is it stressful because we’re letting it stress us out?
Now I’m not saying that what I did at the water station is something that should be overlooked. It was a sign that something else was really stressing me out. However, instead of viewing that trip to the water station as a hassle, I should have used it as a chance to step away from what was really stressing me out and clear my head.
This same technique can be applied to almost any situation. Let’s use the traffic example. Rather than being upset that you’re in traffic, use it as an opportunity to relax while listening to your favorite music or just enjoy the silence of being alone in your car. After all, It may be the only chance you get.
Do you need some help managing your stress? Click here for tips from the American Psychological Association.
What techniques do you use to de-stress?
Photo credit: thornypup