Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Calm Down and Listen to Granny

Maybe the start of a new year is a good time to state a bit of the bleedin' obvious, in order to fend off formal "New Year Resolutions." 

Stress, as any engineer will tell you, is an essential property of well-made things like bridges and buildings. Clifton suspension bridge would land up in the Avon gorge were it not subject to the "right" levels of stress. People likewise. No stress = disintegration. People often comment in surprise how peaceful a dead body looks. 

Too much stress in the wrong places and structures collapse. If you park end-to-end battle tanks on the Clifton Bridge....

Ditto for people, then. We tend to use the word as a shorthand for something like "destructive levels of anxiety," or "unacceptable tensions."

Granny's Obvious but Essential Points About Stress:

1.           Only be a perfectionist where you really have to be one. Often, good enough is good enough. Don’t provide a Rolls if they want a Mini.

2.           Where it’s safe to do so, lower your standards.

3.           Don’t think “if you want a job done well, do it yourself.” It’s a recipe for overwork. Let people do things their own way, unless the context is really important and you can see an upcoming significant error.

4.           Recognise and enjoy what you’ve done well, allow yourself credit, don’t skate over your achievements in order to reach the next task. Not crediting yourself  may hinder your confidence, and give you an inaccurate view of what you do.

5.           When you can, slow down – a second or two can make all the difference between more or less adrenalin. Adrenalin is essential - except when it isn't, then it's the body's loose cannon.

6.           But in work terms (see 1) be realistic when allocating your time.

7.           Avoid misery-making, tension-building experiences and inputs where you can; allow yourself to enjoy enjoyable things, and don’t take the miseries of the world on your shoulders.

8.           Most worrying things, in retrospect, are probably not really as important or worrying as they seemed at the time. Save the worry for when you really need it.

9.           Try to fit in a deliberately calming activity – might be yoga, might be running, doesn’t matter, so long as it helps.

10.      Ask for and accept help when you need it.

These points are distilled from anti-stress books and courses of the last 30 or so years.

Here endeth the sententious New Year pronouncements.

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