Less Stress, More Enjoyment and Passion
By: Gary K. Yamamoto

The American people are so tense that it is impossible to put them to sleep--even with a sermon.--Norman Vincent Peale

Stress is an essential part of your life. Each time you are faced with any change, challenge, or threat, stress automatically results. It is nearly impossible to live without encountering stress. The simple act of driving to work is stressful. Interacting with your superiors and peers is stressful. In most cases, even a quiet stroll through a park can result in stress.

Stress becomes a problem when it continues after the stressful event. Do you find yourself replaying your day at work in bed? Or are you in a continuous rush at work, snapping at people for even minor mistakes? Have you noticed that people are beginning to avoid your company? Do you get upset behind the wheel when following slow drivers? If you answer yes to any of these questions, stress has become a problem in your life. It is affecting your performance, moving it slowly down from impressive to barely adequate.

Some of the more typical work stressors include the following:

    - Fear of terrorist actions

    - Fear of failure and/or rejection

    - Fear of losing your home

    - Employment uncertainty, lack of job security

    - Tight schedules and/or high quotas to meet

    - System and process failure or problems

    - Unforeseen delays

    - Misplaced information or items

    - Peer or management attacks and/or difficult interactions

    - Commuting

Stress is Energy

Under stress, your body is flooded with energy: the energy to fight or run away. Unfortunately, modern social behavior does not always allow you either. Often, your only allowable action is to take no action at all. When this happens, stress becomes a problem. With no place to go, the energy begins to create problems within your body. It manifests itself in your body as a number of physical ailments, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stomach ailments, muscle tension, back problems, and headaches.

Whenever you find yourself feeling stressed, it is time to channel all of that potential energy into some other, more constructive outlet. To accomplish this and thereby make your life more pleasant, you can apply the following four basic strategies:

    1. Resolve the stressor.

    2. Re-channel the stress energy into some other project.

    3. Release the stress energy.

    4. Prevent the stress energy buildup.

Resolve the Stressor

If the situation or problem can be resolved, take care of it. For example, if you are stressed because you are unsure of the balance in your checkbook, this is an easy problem to fix. It only requires you balance your checkbook more often. Unfortunately, too many people do not take action and simply wait and worry. They should stop wasting their energy on worrying and start channeling that energy into resolving the problem.

Another typical stressor might be an unreliable automobile. The owner of the car can resolve the problem by simply having the automobile maintained. In the same manner, a toothache or cavity can be resolved by a visit to the dentist. Whenever possible, resolve any stressful situation.

Re-Channel Stress Energy

Some stressors cannot be resolved directly. Two examples are the potential loss of a job and the death of a close friend. A person cannot force the company to stop the reorganization process or somehow cheat fate and bring a friend back to life. However, the energy can be re-channeled into something new and possibly more constructive.

If you are worried about losing your job, you can prepare yourself. Instead of worrying, you can upgrade your skills and knowledge. You can spend all of that stress energy preparing for your next position.

In the death of a close friend, you can direct your stress energy toward a good purpose. Spending some time and energy helping members of your friend's family will release some of your stress energy. You can also spend time helping a charitable organization. It makes little difference which organization you choose. Helping other people is a very powerful method of reducing stress. It not only helps other people; it helps you as well.

Release Stress Energy

Because stress is the buildup of potential energy, it is released when that energy is expended. There is a long list of exercises you can use to release stress energy. The following are some of the most effective:

1. Physical exercise is a great way to reduce stress. Stress prepares you to fight or run away. It motivates you to take action, but the type of action does not matter. Because physical exercise is an activity similar to fighting or running away, it quickly releases the tension energy created by stress.

2. One of the easiest methods for releasing stress is the use of music. Music can bypass your thinking mind and penetrate deep into your subconscious mind. There it has the power to release your stress energy. The music you choose should be something that is soothing to you. Select the type of music that relaxes you, and then use it often. I recommend using it as you drive home from work and after any stressful event. By using the same type of music regularly, stress release becomes habitual. Almost as soon as you hear the familiar stress-reduction music, your stress will begin to melt. You will begin to feel better almost immediately.

3. Another very effective method of releasing stress is to slow down your breathing. The more slowly you breathe, the more relaxed you become. This stress-reduction technique is especially effective when you are face-to-face with a difficult person. First become aware of your breathing. You will notice that your rate of breathing increases quickly. As soon as you are aware of your rapid breathing, consciously slow it down. The more slowly you breathe, the more you will be able to control your stress levels. No matter what happens, keep breathing as slowly as you can. Keep reminding yourself, "The slower I breathe, the lower my stress."

4. Humor is another wonderful way to release stress. Anytime you can laugh out loud, you release stress. So try to discover ways of adding humor to your life. Any humorous movie or television program that makes you laugh is an effective stress reliever.

5. The final technique is simply to take a break. Take a moment, go off by yourself, and sit quietly somewhere. Take a nap or enjoy a view for a moment. All of these will help to release stress energy.

Prevent Stress Energy Buildup

If at all possible, the best strategy is to employ techniques that prevent the buildup of stress. The following methods work best if they are practiced before the onset of stress:

1. People are sometimes stressed because they strive for perfection. Salvador Dali said, "Don't worry about perfection, you're not going to reach it." If you try to be perfect, you will fail. You will then have only stress to show for your efforts. Instead of striving for perfection, strive for a high and sustainable quality level. Perfection is for God to achieve. You should be satisfied with simply doing your best.

2. People often become stressed because they impose unreasonable time and project requirements on themselves. If you have a tendency to do this, stop it! Re-evaluate your priorities, and place reasonable time requirements on top-priority items.

3. Another method of preventing stress is the practice of meditation. Actually, meditation not only prevents stress, but it also helps to remove it. Meditation is simply the practice of silencing your thoughts. When your thoughts become silent, even if it is for less than a minute, stress is being released.

Restoring Passion

Managing your stress is one of the six basic steps in restoring your passion for work and life. We can all use a little more passion in our lives. After all, life without passion is nothing more than hard work.

Excerpted from Gary's book, Professional Power, Personal Excellence: 7 Steps to Accelerate Your Career.

- Copyright 2003 by Gary Yamamoto. All rights reserved.

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