Posted on Apr 24th, 2006

1. The first thing to make clear is that I look at handling stress a little bit differently from many others. Typically, people focus on how to reduce or eliminate the stress in their lives.

Their focus is on surviving stress.

My belief is that their focus is too narrow and limited.

My focus, by contrast, is on how to thrive on the stress in your life, how to make it work for you.

2. What’s stressful can vary greatly. What some people call stressful, others find exciting. If you don’t believe me, just ask five different people what they think of rollercoaster rides or horror movies.

3. It’s also important to make a distinction between stress and pressure. Stress comes from the outside, while pressure is an inside job.

4. Are you familiar with how diamonds are created? Diamonds start out as lumps of coal, usually deep within a mountain. Over time, the coal responds to stress and pressure in such a way as to form diamonds. That’s why my favorite quote about stress is:

"A diamond is nothing more than a lump of coal that handled stress really well."

5. It is possible to be overstressed, enjoy stress too much or even be addicted to stress. One sure sign of a stress addiction is that when various things come up in your life, you create a crisis in order to get your stress fix.

6. Flexibiiity helps us overcome stress. Which do you think handles stress better, an oak tree or a willow tree? This is really a trick question, because it’s natural to think an oak tree would be stronger.

But think a moment. Picture a branch of an oak tree, strong but stiff. In the winter, snow piles up on the branch until it breaks.

Now picture the branch of a willow tree. It too is strong. It’s also flexible. As the snow piles up, it’s able to bend and let the snow slide off. It bends but doesn’t break.

The relevance of this analogy to stress in our lives is obvious.

7. One of the biggest sources of stress for many people is something I call the Too Many Hats Syndrome, or TMH for short. All of us have so many different hats to wear. parent, spouse, worker, with many roles within each category.

8. Sometimes, we feel as if we were in a sideshow at the circus, the one with the guy spinning plates on a stick and running around to keep, all the plates spinning.

The best way I’ve found to make all the plates work for us is to organize, organize, organize. If at this point you are saying, "I just don’t have time to organize," you’re proving my point.

9. We all also have to deal with stressful, even traumatic, events and situations in our lives. And often, we have to move on right away from one stressful event to the next. We don’t get or take adequate time to recover.

10. A key difference between people who thrive and people who just survive stress is how they talk to themselves about the stress.

Faced with too much to do, those who just survive say things such as, "How will I ever get all this done?" or "Why does this always happen to me?" Then they wonder why they feel even more stressed-out.

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