On Handling Stress

Spanish Prof shares the following story:

“Oh,” he answered, “. . . only rarely do I feel stressed out in my job”.

ME: “Really? Because to me, your job sounds really stressful. Do you do some kind of yoga, or meditation, or something that helps you keep stress at bay?”

HIM: “Oh no, nothing like that. It’s just that I used to be an undercover narcotics cop, so I was in situations where people were yelling at me and had guns. Now, every time a client yells at me, I just remind myself ‘S/he doesn’t have a gun,’ and that’s enough for me to stay calm.”

I use this strategy of handling stress, too, and it really works for me. Yesterday, for example, I started freaking out because of some silly document I needed for my midpoint dossier and that hadn’t arrived yet. So I started creating a huge drama over it in my head, even though its existence is far from being crucial for my dossier. In all probability, nobody will even notice whether it’s there or not. Still, I jumped on this opportunity to get hugely stressed out.

And then I remembered the most painful, horrible and hopeless moment of my life and thought, “I got through that and now, when my life is so much better, I’m making myself miserable over some stupid piece of paper? What kind of fool am I, precisely?”

Within moments, I felt such a surge of happiness that I started dancing in my office.

7 thoughts on “On Handling Stress

  1. I am trying to employ this at my current job. There are a couple of people who hang around my office all the time who bring great amounts of stress into my life (Everyone in the office hates them and admits they make them uncomfortable, but our open-door policy means we can’t kick them out) So I try to deal with them by reminding myself that at least they have no power over me, and are not calling me antisemitic names like my old boss did.
    Honestly, so far, it’s not working, because they’re proving themselves to be even more insufferable than my old boss. So I think instead I am going to cut down my hours at this job and find another part time job I can focus my energies on. One where they reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.


    1. I haven’t been able to discover a way not to get annoyed by certain people either. I now know how to handle potentially stressful situations, but how to handle stress-inducing people is still a skill I need to acquire.


  2. I actually do that sometimes. too. There are times when I get a call for help (I work tech support for a bank, i assist bank employees not bank customers to be exact) and it will be an employee whose issue is something basic….

    Then I remember that its not that the issue is basic….to me.

    Even though I still get riled up sometimes it helps to remember that its not really fair to expect Average Joe/Jane bank employee to have the same computer skills as someone whose been doing tech support for a few years.

    (It helps to remember that they are also doing a job where I don’t know shit and if I were trying to do their job I would probably have problems that would stump me but would be basic to them.)


  3. My reminder is, “Well, we didn’t kill anyone. Anything else can be fixed.”

    I work in medical research. Stuff happens (sometimes weird stuff happens). All you can do is go with the flow, do your best, and keep your mind open for creative solutions to unexpected problems.


  4. When I was in the animation business and we would get all super-stressed out over some disaster or impossible impending deadline we would say “It’s only a cartoon.” πŸ™‚


  5. That’s a nice story. Personally, I like to use the “it won’t even matter in a month/a year” tactic. It’s especially helpful for a student, because really, who on earth is going to care how I did on a math quiz one year from now?


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