ISSUE 48 ISSN 1712-468
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To Be or Not To Be: The Way You Handle Stress is Your Choice!

Is it just me or do people seem to be on a shorter fuse these days?

A friend was sharing a story that happened to her at Costco. She had finished her shopping and was loading the iterms into her car. Just then, an elderly lady pulled up. Our friend told the lady she could have her parking spot because she was leaving.

At that point, a middle-aged man—who had also wanted that parking spot—jumped out of his car and started screaming obscenities at the elderly lady and our friend. Within a few seconds, his 14 year-old daughter leapt from their car and started acting the same way as her father—terribly rude and totally out-of-control! Over a parking spot?!

Now here's a story that involved "the old me." A number of years ago, my wife Marg and I were visiting friends in a small community on Vancouver Island. It was Sunday morning and Marg thought it would be nice if we took care of lunch for our friends so I went down to the local Super Valu to pick up a few items.

One customer was ahead of me at the checkout. The person obviously knew the checkout clerk (remember, small town) so the two of them were getting caught up on local events. I was getting more and more frustrated and stressed that they were taking so long.

All of a sudden it dawned on me that here it was, Sunday morning, and I really didn't have anywhere to be in a rush, yet I was getting stressed-out by a short delay. I stopped my internal agitation and had a good laugh. I realized how conditioned I had become to moving fast and not taking time to enjoy life.

How are you handling stress?

According  to the Psychology Foundation of Canada, excessive stress—as well as other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety—are estimated to cost the Canadian economy $51 billion per year in lost productivity.

In the US, the American Institute for Stress puts the price tag at a staggering $300 billion per year.

Science Daily back in the Fall released information from a study by Journal of Aging Research that documents that men who have a persistently moderate of high level of stressful life events have a 50% higher mortality rate.

So stress is a big deal and it appears that most of us are not handling it well.

Stress comes from a number of areas and impacts people differently. What stresses-out my wife is not the same thing that stresses me. Being self-employed means we don't have a "guaranteed" paycheck every week—I'm not sure who really does these days—and that is more a stressor for my wife than it is for me.

The study referenced above by the Psychology Foundation of Canada discovered that while many circumstances can affect our stress levels, there are some common causes.

  • 43% of Canadians pointed to finances as their top stressor.
  • 18% of the respondents—or nearly 1 in 5—listed work pressure as their top stressor. Even in a small company of 20 people, that means at least 4 of those individuals are feeling stress. That will have—or is already having—an impact on their ability to perform their work.

In the workplace environment, too much stress can affect employees' abilities to concentrate, meet deadlines, make decisions, and manage professional relationships.

Stress occurs when our body or mind is challenged and the old "fight" or "flight" response kicks in—which is great if we are in the middle of a burning building and need to react instantly. The threats and challenges we face today are often social and emotional, rather than physical, but our bodies react in much the same way as our ancestor's bodies did. That jolt of adrenalin and chemicals into our system has a significant impact on our overall well-being.

These days, people quickly blame work for their stress. A number of years ago, one of our clients share how he used CRG's Stress Indicator and Health Planner in his organization to help his staff manage different stress levels.

  • Personal Distress (observable through physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms)
  • Interpersonal Stress
  • Wellness Assessment (including nutrition and health practices)
  • Time Management
  • Occupational Stress

He went one step further, he invited immediate family members to participate in the session. Why? It's easy to blame work as the source of stress—"My job is stressing me out."

He soon discovered that for many individuals, stress was being caused by issues outside of work; interpersonal relationships and nutrition were often seen as leading causes of stress. By including immediate family members, the company was able to help the staff address the true cause of the stress—not just manage the symptoms. Then they worked together to put the necessary action steps in place to combat the stress.

Personally, I think one of the main creators of stress in our lives is that we have not learned to make good decisions. As a result of poor decisions, we increase our level of stress.

My colleague, David Stinson from Trinity Western University has developed the Stinson Personal Wellness Model, based upon four pillars of wellness: Purpose, Balance, Congruency, and Sustainability. Using his model, you ask yourself key questions to reduce the likelihood of making a bad decision and thus you reduce your stress.

For example, the fourth Pillar is Sustainability. Its key question is Can you continue this decision long-term?

Ask yourself some other important questions around the sustainability of your decision...

  • Does my life include any margins? (Boundaries)
  • Have I identified the things that drain me?
  • Does my schedule include revitalizing activities?
  • Am I realistic about this stage of my life?
  • Occupational Stress

The suggested action steps for "sustainability" include slowing down and reducing clutter in your life.

Working through the process with all four Pillars will help create a much more stress-free environment for you.

I would be glad to send you a diagram of the way the Four Pillars work. Simply email me at and I will get you a copy.

So, let me ask Are you feeling stressed?

The good news is you don't have to guess any longer about what is causing it. Take time right now to complete CRG's Stress Indicator and Health Planner to get on the road to a more productive and enjoyable life!


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