When I’m delivering conflict resolution training, I ask participants about the meaning of stress, They give me answers like tension, trouble, misery, or lack of control. These factors are outside of their control – things that they just have. They are describing stress as a noun. Try to think about stress as a verb instead.
In music, you learn that stress is a verb. When you play an instrument or sing, and you want to accent a particular note or passage, you stress it. That emphasizes its importance.
Stress as a verb means to accentuate or emphasize.
The primary definition of stress as a verb is to accentuate or emphasize. When I sing, I decide to stress a note, or I might emphasize a particular verse. The decision to stress is mine alone.
Then I thought about life stress – the tension and misery part. Whose decisions are those? More often than not, they are ours. That explains why some people are stressed out in traffic while others are calmer. The ones who accentuate the negativity react to that and the ones who think it’s no big deal react accordingly. Stress can be your choice. So think about stress as a verb.
As a leader, this is important to remember. People are more apt to follow those who can keep calm and show grace under pressure.
Allowing yourself to feel stressed out is hard on your body, physically as well as mentally. It increases your adrenaline and blood pressure. So think about what you stress in your life. Often, just by changing your perspective, you can reduce your stress:
- If a change happens at work over which you have no control, try focusing on what you can do, not what you can’t do about it.
- During a conflict, accentuate your ability to sail through it smoothly and respectfully, instead of emphasizing what might go wrong.
- When a family member throws a wrench into your plan, work with him or her to negotiate a win-win alternative to creating havoc.
- Accept that you might hit traffic today. If you plan for it, you won’t be blindsided by it.
- When you have a bad hair day, is it really worth stressing about? Wear a hat.
Our reactions are frequently our choices and our habits. Think of stress as a verb, and try not to make it a knee-jerk reaction. Choose not to do it! You haven’t peaked yet!
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