Just relax they say.
Sure, if only it were that easy.
Stress comes from many places in life. Tough day at work, big project due at school, sick kids, rent going up, your car breaks down, your crush is dating that person so obviously wrong for them…
No matter how old we are, stress finds us. Some factors will be present for most of our lives, others visit us for short periods of time. The part I find interesting is whether people can identify and rectify (if possible) the causes of their stress and what they do to try and get it out of their system.
I worked at a grocery store in my late teens/early twenties and it was around this time that my fascination with the subject began. From 5-6 PM was the massive after work rush as people would make a pit stop to get what they needed for supper that night. Day after day after day, this was also the worst hour of the day when it came to how we were treated by these customers. I’d try to prep myself for that hour and go around to the cashiers and other front end staff just before the rush, try to remind them how awesome they were and that nothing we’d deal with for the next bit was anything personal. You couldn’t be overly nice to most, especially not fake nice as that would just make it worse. But it was pointless to get your back up or to take anything personally as a lot of the customers were just blowing off steam. Some were leaving a job they hated for whatever reason, others were heading home to a situation they didn’t want to be a part of. We never knew or could assume the story, but more often than not we were receiving the repercussions for a day or an experience or a soon to be situation that they would just as soon avoid.
It took me a few years of working there to really flip the switch and to feel bad for people who treated us like that rather than be angry about it. Realizing that the minute they stepped out of the store that they wouldn’t even think about us again but that some of us would carry that negativity forward and possibly treat somebody else the way we had been treated was enough for me to take it in stride and to try and be a positive moment in their day instead of a confrontation.
It also made me self analyze a bit more and to reflect on how I handled moments like that in my life. Being a sports nut, I had found a great outlet for myself prior to that that served me well for many years, even now even though much less frequently. Few places make me feel more serene than being at the batting cage. Shutting out all other thoughts and focusing on the seams on the ball as it hurtles towards me. The satisfying lack of sensation as the bat makes contact while hearing the crack it makes, well, 5 to 10 reps in and I can’t help but have a smile on my face. On a particularly bad day I’d stay in there until I couldn’t lift my arms any longer, go home and sleep.
Over the years, different situations call for different methods. Working as a graphic designer I had to go for walks when I was stuck. Rather than staring at the screen and wanting to scream, taking 5 minutes away from the screen did wonders. During my time studying computer programming, it was going for a hot shower. I will likely never be able to tell you why, but numerous times the answer to a missing bit of code hit me there instead of when I was trying to decipher it while staring at a screen covered in code.
This may sound nice and poetic but I’ve also tried many stress relievers that didn’t do the trick for me. Stress balls, meditation, jogging, massages and mandalas are a few that haven’t been good answers for me so far, but each of those has been a great method for people I know.
I try to lead by example as much as I can. I try to recognize when I’m getting tense or riled up or when I’m getting close to making a comment I’ll regret later. To be a calming presence and influence, but in the end, we all need time to ourselves when we get stressed. Identifying our own triggers, moods and what works for each of us to unwind rather than unload on others is a great skill for people to have.
What works for you when you’re stressed? How easy is it for you to admit to being stressed without taking it out on others?