We have been looking at the growing challenge of dealing with stress in our increasingly busy and frenetic lives.

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We have shown how our perception of what is happening to us is at least as important as what is actually going on (part 1). We have also looked at some ways we can handle stress in our lives (part 2). There is also the role of harnessing the power of technology which we have looked at in previous posts.

The other important consideration is to deal with the many myths that get in the way of us handling stress appropriately:

Myth 1: Stress is normal as it means you are important and it pushes you to perform at your best.

We looked at this in the post called, Do you live to work or work to live? There is something about our self-identity that for some makes us want to appear busy. (Also see quote fromTim Keller that makes this link between identity and self-regard in post called Wonder-Filled Bold Humility part 3). It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that there is something almost virtuous about having a full schedule, long working hours and way more to do than we can handle. But levels of stress do not correlate with how much you matter to your business or organisation. It either means something is wrong at work or you are not matching the task you need to do with the time you have available. On top of that you can end up getting less work done, because when we feel stressed we are less efficient, worse at communicating and worse at making good decisions.

Myth 2: Stress is caused by working too much.

If that were really the case then why is it some people can work as much as 100 hours a week and feel exhilarated, while some are unemployed or work part-time and feel extremely stressed? Perhaps the key is that stress is not linked to the number of hours you work, but rather how you feel during those hours. So if you work 100 hours a week and during that time you feel you are having great fun, and take pride in what you do, then you won’t feel stressed. By contrast, if you work 30 hours a week feeling inadequate, unappreciated or even bullied then you will feel stressed.

Myth 3:  Stress is cured by working less.

In many cases companies react to stress by reducing their employees’ workloads, responsibilities or working hours and in very serious cases giving long periods of sick leave. In some cases it could be argued that this can be potentially counterproductive as those affected by stress need to increase their confidence and capacity at work. While time off from work may be necessary to treat the immediate symptoms of stress, a long absence from work could have a detrimental effect.

Myth 4:  Stress is cured by working more.

For some of us there can be a mindset that says, “I love to work under high stress because it enables me to give of my best. I thrive on chaos and tight deadlines.” There may well be an element of truth to that. However, it is important to appreciate that the so-called type-A personality is potentially masking an addiction to adrenaline. It is known that the adrenaline rush is many times more powerful than heroin. The rush of adrenaline temporarily numbs the body’s sense of pain and produces a general sense of excitement that most people find pleasurable. This rush of excitement is typically followed by a relaxed state. When that happens in a crisis situation that is both necessary and beneficial. However, there is real risk of subconsciously creating ‘crises’ so as to experience this adrenaline rush with its subsequent relaxed state. This over time will create a toll on the body.

The importance of thinking this through is that believing any of these myths, consciously or subconsciously will go on to affect our behaviour. We discussed this in previous the previous blog posts entitled ‘Initial Thoughts on Thinking’ and ‘Thinking with John Maxwell’.

How well do the 4 myths about stress that were mentioned  resonate with you? Do you see yourself thinking them at times? Do you agree or disagree with them? Are there other myths about stress you have believed? (We have previously discussed how although all people are worthy of respect, that is not necessarily the case for ideas – see ‘Welcome To My Blog’).

What have you found helpful in telling yourself when you feel overwhelmed or life seems to be getting out of control?

It would be great to have your thoughts and reflections.