FROM STRESS TO “STRESSCALATION”
(The Combustible Component Of Stress)
The stresses of life come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. It doesn’t take much to trigger it. Checking the weather leads to stress. How about the stock market, or other news events? And if the news wasn’t stressful enough, who is the genius that came up with that rolling news band at the bottom of your TV? Stress compounded?
I read about a new stress called Changing Room Rage (CRR). It’s a dubious affliction of shopped-out women. It was a study done on over 1200 women, which revealed that three quarters (75%) of them suffered from this when shopping. It seems that cramped, cluttered, and exposed fitting rooms can make trying on clothes a traumatic experience. This leads to feelings of anger, disappointment, and bouts of bad temper. *
Now stress is unavoidable. But we can complicate the problem. We get involved in exacerbating it. Actually, when it comes to exacerbating stress, nothing has changed since ancient times. Even King David over 3000 years ago said, My anxious thoughts multiply within me. **
The term “stresscalation”, sums up this exponential component of stress very well. It is downright combustible! It seems Ruth Dailey Grainger first coined the term back in 1992 in an article for the American Journal of Nursing.***
There have been a multitude of articles on stress. They range from how you recognize it, to prevention techniques, to using it skillfully and advantageously, to how it can be relieved. Yet it’s easy to look for solutions and continue to fall prey to its menacing effects.
We make it worse. It multiplies—what Grainger referred to as “stresscalation”. We set ourselves up for higher levels of pressure. We involve ourselves in thoughts and behaviors that exacerbate it.
Here are some of the counterproductive techniques. If you are doing any of these common “stresscalators”, I suggest you recognize them, and own them. That will help you manage your stress if you can recognize the counter-productive behaviors.
1. Think negatively. This is particularly effective, especially if you make it personally about yourself.
2. When something bad happens, isolate and amplify that thought. Don’t let any positive thoughts interrupt your catastrophic mindset.
3. When worrying, stop your simulated thinking at the point of greatest dire impact. After all, worry is like a movie. So make sure you stop the movie before it’s finished. This will help you keep the dread and anxiety at the optimum level.
4. Live in the future. We are the only animal on earth that can experience the future before it arrives. It’s like a built-in flight simulator. We can experience ourselves crashing over and over again, even though it hasn’t really happened. Forget about “now”. After all, “now” will soon be “then”. So live in the future because it is yet to come. Brilliant!!!
5. Promote GMC Behavior (Gripe, Moan and Complain). Actually our research has found that the louder and longer, the better.
6. Procrastinate. Why do now what you could do tomorrow? Postpone working on that project, paper, or problem. After all, you might miss the thrill of an overtime sudden death finale! You’ll be forfeiting that heart-pumping, brain-racing, anxiety-level feeling. Why miss that thrill?
7. When leaving for an appointment, make sure that the exact time you leave is the exact time you’re suppose to arrive. This is particularly a great technique for stresscalation. The lack of margin is the gasoline on the fire.
8. When you miss the deadline, make sure you panic. Being a non-anxious presence won’t help you multiply the stress. We suggest you panic. It is particularly helpful to start screaming and moaning, getting angry with others and finding someone else to blame. Blame is a great tool for pain-redistribution. Tantrums and scape goating are particularly rewarding.
One more and we’re through!
9. Hang onto slights and irritability. Keep feeding them, growing them, and
holding them close to your heart. To escalate them is to multiply them, and that will keep your stress level growing.
Now that you see how to multiply your stresses, you can choose your behavior. I have found it to be helpful to extrapolate current behaviors into the future. It shows what will happen if present behavior isn’t altered.
And that is a good deterrent.
What stresses you, and how do you deal with it? Let us know.
[Next week — seven tips for managing your stress. Stay tuned.]
*Sky News International
**Psalm 94:19 (NASV)
***Ruth Daily Grainger, American Journal of Nursing, Sept 1992, Vol. 92, Issue 9.
(Mick Ukleja is the co-author of the book Who Are You? What Do You Want?: Four Questions That Will Change Your Life)