Posted by: LYF | December 16, 2011

Dealing with stress

Viktor Frankl compared stress to a gas and that comparison has always stuck with me.  No matter what type of container you put a gas in, it will diffuse evenly and occupy the entire space.  Stress is a lot like that.  It doesn’t matter how big or small the stress is, it has the ability to occupy any space.

I was going through the same process almost every day for 3 months.  I would get asked to do something, that I didn’t know how to do, to be done as soon as possible.  I would get stressed out, stop sleeping and become overwhelmed.  Finally a few patterns started to emerge.

The longest the stress would last was two hours.  I started measuring the amount of time from when a person asked me to do something to when I stopped freaking out.  The max was two hours.  That was a good start.  I also noticed that it usually took me about 10% of my original estimate to complete the task.  This was a huge eye opener.  If I thought something was going to take an hour, it usually took 10 min.  Ten fucking minutes!  Who cares about ten minutes.  Chamomile tea worked well too.  It made intuitive sense after I started drinking it.  Most people drink Chamomile tea before they go to bed because it helps them sleep.  I’ve done this before and it works pretty well.  The relaxing sensation can also help if you’re feeling stressed about something.

Getting worked up everyday is exhausting so I had a real incentive here to figure out how to deal with this.

The realizations I had along with some of the practical steps I put into place helped a lot.  If I started feeling overwhelmed, I immediately knew a few things.  First, the longest this feeling would last was two hours.  Knowing how long I would be in a bad mood made it easier to cope with being in a bad mood.  Second, whatever my estimate of the time it took to complete the task, I knew it was completely overestimated.  That helped my mood a bit too.  Then I would go buy a large chamomile tea to calm myself down even more.

This gave me enough perspective to work without putting a personal handicap on myself via freaking the fuck out, which created a great feedback loop.  The more I used this approach, the less stressful these situations became and the easier things got.  This is the closest I’ve gotten to being comfortably-uncomfortable.

The biggest takeaway I’ve had from this whole experience is the following; document how you feel under different circumstances, analyze the triggers that made you feel that way and brainstorm different ways to manipulate those triggers.  Otherwise it’s really hard to make any behavioral change.

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