What is your stress threshold? Y’know, that point where you stop trying or say ‘enough?’ That very notable point where your mind floods and hell will freeze over before you can take another second.
Do you find that your threshold changes according to your level of hunger, tiredness, schedule, urgency, stress etcetera? Mine certainly does. We often hear and talk about how people perform under pressure and give great respect and admiration to those who despite huge stress, keep a calm head and remain consistent in producing results.
We aspire to have the same grace under fire yet you only have to peer into the average household, office, car at peak hour or boardroom to realise that most people have some way to go to managing it well.
Over the years, I’ve met myriad people who take great pride in their ability to handle a lot of stress well. Naturally I’ve been intrigued by such claims but was soon disappointed to realise that what they really meant was ‘I take on a lot of stress but rather than manage it well, something else just pays the price’. From their health to their minds to their bank accounts or their relationships, something eventually breaks. I’ve been very guilty of it and I’m sure you have too.
So it makes me think. Remaining calm under fire but then it blowing out somewhere else in your life is hardly managing it well. If this was a financial situation and you were remaining calm whilst you spend your way to bankruptcy, it doesn’t mean you’re good at managing money. In fact you suck at it.
I think what we all want is the feeling of less stress, not a better way to handle it. So less stress I hear you say? How do you have less stress? Well believe it or not, it comes from you and your mind, not the situation. The reduction of stress is purely a perceptive thing. Stress isn’t actually a thing in the room you can move around – it’s just a thought.
How can I prove this? A child’s response at a young age emulates the influences around them. They watch how you react, they learn what you say and how you say it. It invariably gets wired into their brains as the default way to respond to ‘x’ situation. As they grow into adults some people will change and evolve this response – but many don’t and won’t. The fight or flight response of most people can often be linked back to what they were taught from a very young age.
It’s why some people shrug and walk away whilst others burst into tears at the same event. Their response and how it impacts their mood, emotions and life is purely based on a chosen response programmed into their brain. Much like how you choose your default coffee, your default toothpaste and your default haircut. You actively have to break the thought process and rationalise a change.
This is a great example here of ‘programming and replay’ at work. Watch this video right to the end and listen to the great kids at the end versus the kids at the beginning. Most concerning, watch the kid who punches the wall in anger. You can literally hear the parent’s word tracks and behaviours spoken and acted verbatim through their children.
Changing your perception of what is stressful is the same process as why you like a certain type of phone, date, car, band and the like. It takes some repetition, an open mind, some courage to try it and some time to allow it to simmer in your mind.
It’s widely accepted that working under pressure is an inherent part of life. Some people even believe that they need pressure and stress in order to perform. From your big deadline to starting a company, balancing a hectic schedule to just the jerk behind you who keeps beeping despite that you can’t merge because there’s a truck in the way (and is also visible to him.) It seems that there are ‘stressful situations’ all around us and we have a lot to be stressed about.
So you can probably relate to how frustrating it seems when you meet someone who doesn’t see your stressful situations as seriously as you do. Just perhaps, they choose to respond differently from you based on their programming?
Whether you take a deep breath and smile or fly off the handle, your threshold and response is entirely set by you – consciously or sub-consciously.
It turns out that the guy who doesn’t flinch under pressure isn’t actually super human. Nor has he learned a new skill. He simply chooses a different option and with enough practice and experience, he re-programs his mind to reset the stress threshold.
Stressing-less isn’t about invalidating your feelings towards a situation or not taking the situation seriously; it’s about encouraging you to move your responses into your conscious mind and to actively train yourself to choose differently.
The great news is that you’re already born with the ability to choose and for us privileged few, we’re also fortunate to live in a world that enables us to exercise free choices. How sad for many people, who despite having massive silver spoons compared to the rest of the world, live unhappy lives due to the simple fact: they don’t and won’t choose differently because ‘it’s always been done this way.’
Don’t squander what others would (and have) died for by neglecting your decision making privileges because you’re too scared to challenge and master them.