What do you do when it’s someone else that is STRESSING YOU OUT!!!!

This is a little snippet from my Raleigh presentation at the Total Health Seminar.  The Total Health Seminar is packed with life-changing stories, stress management strategies, nutrition tips, pain management information, financial advice, and relationship expertise.
This is a rotating seminar offered by local experts, including: life coach Laura Rose, nutritionist Tonya Peels, holistic health practitioner Carole Hoffman, financial adviser Adam Whitesell, and family, marriage and couple therapist Lesli Doares.   Let me know if you would like something similar in your area.

An audience member asked “But what do you do when it’s someone else that is STRESSING YOU OUT!!!!

Good News: No one outside of you can STRESS YOU OUT.

Remember.  Stress is the way that you react physically, mentally and emotionally to various conditions, changes and demands in your life.  It’s the way YOU REACT.   YOU, YOU, YOU.

It’s never “someone else”:

The other person’s actions aren’t the catalyst to your stress.  It’s what you are thinking about or beliefs about what the other person is doing that is causing you stress.

For instance: What if a friend is drinking or smoking more than you would like them to do.  You are constantly bothered by it, or stressed over it.  It’s not the fact that this person is drinking or smoking that is causing you stress.   It’s that you have the belief that drinking, smoking are “bad” and you do not agree with it.  It’s the fact that drinking or smoking is not YOUR preference on how to behave.

If, instead, you had the belief that your friend is a full grown adult, with their own body and their own belief systems, then you might feel that they should be allowed to do whatever they want with their own body – as they see fit.  If you believed that way, then you would not be stressed over the fact that they are drinking or smoking.  If you believe that you have no control over what another person puts in their bodies, then it would not stress you that they are following their own preferences and not yours.  The next thought you might have is – since my preference is to be around people that do not smoke or drink (and I think it’s a safer environment for my family and myself), maybe this person is not a good match for me.  Maybe I want to surround myself with more friends that are more in harmony with my beliefs.

“But if that person loved me – he would quit smoking and drinking in order to stay with me!”

Well – the person could choose to quit smoking and drinking because is matches HIS belief system.  If the person believed that smoking and drinking has a bad affect on his family, friends and himself, he might choose to quit.  If the reason he started smoking and drinking in the first place has disappeared or is no longer a priority in his life, the person could choose to quit.  But that is his decision to make.  I am not saying people cannot change.  People are constantly changing.  All I am saying is that the most effective change comes from the individual’s desire to change.  Not from your desire for the other person to change.  And your attitude or belief that someone else needs to change in order for you to be happy is actually the cause of your stress.

Easier said than done – I very much agree.  Changing our attitudes and thoughts on this is difficult, especially if it’s become our default mode or habit (practiced thought).   It is difficult but doable.

Taking the example to the office:

Now let’s say you’re a project manager for a high profile project with 5 members on your team.  I am willing to bet that you have experienced some projects, in which not all members put in the same amount of effort or bring the same level of skill, talent enthusiasm to the table every day.

Perhaps 3 of the 5 members are sufficiently pulling the project-cart up the hill.  One person is actually just walking besides the cart.  The last person seems like they are actually sitting in the cart – making everything a tad harder for the rest of the crew.  Both of the low-performing individuals are “STRESSING YOU OUT”. But remember – the fact that they are not doing their jobs isn’t what is really stressing you out.  It’s actually your reaction or response to their lack-luster performances.  It’s the fact that you think they should be pulling their own weight (and they are not) that is stressing you out.

There are normally several options available to you (not limited to these below):

  1. You can sit on your hands and continue to resent the people not doing their best to get the cart up the hill.
  2. You can give everyone the benefit of the doubt that the two low-performing people will eventually step up.
  3. You can badger folks into working harder and longer to meet the slipping schedule
  4. You can redistribute the people’s tasks such that the top 3 performers are now doing 5 people’s work.
  5. You can postpone or delay the delivery, release or event
  6. You can eliminate features or reduce the scope of the project that is more doable for 3 people.
  7. You can re-arrange tasks to make sure everyone is assigned to the tasks that best fit their talent and skill.  You can better articulate the expectations, deadlines and reasons for doing these important tasks.  (Often time’s lack-luster performances are a result of mismatched expectations, skills and assignment.  If you have these things to do and only these people to do it – sometimes the skills available and the things to DO NOT MATCH – which means you do not have the right team in place. )
  8. You can get a replacement that is better suited for the undone tasks, and dump the cart-riding fellow to the curb.
  9. You can do a combination of the above at appropriate points in the project.

After giving the “cart-riding” person every opportunity to participate and making sure all the tasks are aligned appropriately to each person’s skills and talents, replacing is the more positive step because it also motivates the person “walking beside the cart” to start pulling along with the others.

More often than not – changing the way you respond to external catalysts will reduce (or heighten) your stress level.  When this is true, the external event isn’t causing the stress.

Conclusion: Blaming others for how we are feeling has some temporary advantages.  It allows us to relax because we feel that “it’s not our fault”.  But the attitude or belief that someone else needs to change in order for us to be happy is actually the cause of much of our stress.   Since we can not efficiently and consistently make anyone make us happy,  this is an exhausting and unsatisfactory solution.  Therefore the most benefit comes when we acknowledge that we control our own thoughts and feelings.  And that we also  create or eliminate our stress.  This decision is a very liberating and empowering realization.


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