Are you Stressed out or just Busy?

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Everywhere I look nowadays I see something about stress and reducing stress.  When my doctor inquired about my stress level, he seems shocked when I said "Zero".  I guess most of his patients feel stress.  I just don't.  I have a friend who was nice enough to point out all the things that I should be stressed about, "kids, work, money".  Thanks for that buddy, but nope, still not feeling stressed.

Oh I'm busy.  And sometimes I'm tense.  And I've recently discovered that I can be nervous.  But stressed?  Nah.  The only time I can remember being stressed was when I was in an important meeting that was running late, and I had to go pick up my son.  I was stressed because I had to be in two places at once and I couldn't do anything about it.  But that rarely happens because I build a lot of space into my schedule. 

There's  a ton of advice out there about techniques to reduce stress.  Meditation, massage, bubble baths, herbal tea.  While I love a nice massage, I find it to these techniques be very reactive.  How about we tackle the root cause that's making you stress in the first place?

Here are some things that keep stress out of my life.

  • Root cause analysis.  Use the root cause analysis tools that you use at work.  Pick your biggest stressor, then sit for 10 minutes and ask yourself the "5 Whys".  The 5 Whys is where you ask why after every answer.  It might sound something like this:
    • I'm stressed getting to work on time everyday.
    • Why?   Because I'm always late
    • Why?   Because I leave the house late
    • Why?   Because I can't wake up in time
    • Why?   Because I don't really want to go to work
    • Why?   Because my boss makes me feel inadequate

Aha!  Now we have a problem we can work on solving!  This person needs to work on changing his relationship with his boss or possibly looking for a new job.

  • Make space.  Although I made the point that busy does not equal stress, an overscheduled life can create stress.  A tightly packed schedule doesn't leave flexibility for the life's changes, it becomes so rigid that even a small change can set off a negative chain of events.  The simple answer here is "don't do it".  This may mean saying "no" more often.  It might mean rearranging your schedule to build in some buffer between work and day-care pick up.
  •   Do what makes you happy.  Need I say more?  We're not here on this earth to win the rat race.   Treat yourself well!

How do you keep your stress low?  We'd love to hear from you in the comments!

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.
— William James