When I ask the question, “What’s at the top of your stress list?” I don’t mean what is the number one source of stress in your life. The answer to that is generally pretty easy, our top sources of stress are (in no particular order):
I say “in no particular order” because, while they are the biggies, your individual biggie might be different from mine. What’s more, it will probably change over time.
As it happens, for me number one is my kids. I love the little goobers more than life itself, but they are stressful:
- Keeping them fed
- Keeping them occupied
- Keeping them out of trouble
- Raising them to be independent
- Letting them learn to take risks, while keeping them (usually unwittingly) safe
- Endlessly repeating, “brush your teeth,” “practice the piano,” “stop jumping on the furniture,” “turn off the computer,”
This is now. A few years ago, it was money, a few years before that it was my job, and before that, my wife. As I said, your top source of stress changes over time. You adapt, you change, you develop coping strategies and that top source changes with you.
No, what I’m talking about is an important, yet unfinished task. Something that is bugging you, but not enough to get you to actually do it. Ask yourself the following question:
What task have you not done, that you need to do, that you are stalling over, and that is causing you stress?
We all have them, I can think of six, right off the top of my head.
Before I sat down to write this, I had seven. There was a problem with my Canadian Tire points reward card, and it’s been bugging me. Unfortunately, it hadn’t been bugging me enough to actually, you know, actually do something about, only enough to cause me to fume about it.
Well, before I took the boys for our noon walk, I said, “Enough Andrew, you’re being stupid, DO SOMETHING.”
So I did. Then a funny thing happened, customer service fixed my problem, and it turns out that it wasn’t just one problem, it was three. It took ½ an hour, but when all was said and done, I went from torqued about the problem to happy with the solution.
Now, how did I know this was stressing me? When I called customer service, I was snarling at the CSR. The problem wasn’t her fault, so I really shouldn’t have been growling at her. Plus, I’m really not the type to get angry with CSRs. I know they’re just regular people earning a living, fixing angry people’s problems, problems that come from policies way outside their control.
I (almost) never speak to CSRs in anything other than a normal conversational tone, and I’m not happy that I started out that way. That I did is a measure of how much this problem was bugging me. Fortunately, I caught myself, and explained that I was not upset with her, apologized for my rudeness, and made myself calm down.
So, we’ve established that I was stressed by the problem. Can we establish that I was de-stressed by solving it?
How about this; from the moment I hung up the phone until I began to write this, I haven’t thought about Canadian Tire, or my reward points problem. Problem solved, weight lifted, stress gone, mental energy devoted to fussing about it diverted to something useful.
So, how about you?
What irritating tasks do you have left undone? Stupid little things that will consume time and resources, that you don’t want to do, but leaving them undone is stressing you.
Trust me, you’ll feel better for it.