Stress: What Resists Persists

I’ve been trying to write this post for a couple of weeks now, hence the delay in weekly posts, but each time I try to write this post it seems to get more nebulous and difficult to write. This causes undue stress, which ironically enough crystalizes the concept I’ve been trying to write about.

For example, I wanted to first write this post four weeks ago, but I resisted writing it because I had other things to do and lo and behold, this post was still here today persisting to be finalized. With each passing day, I found that this post more and more difficult to write. However, yesterday I was checked with some accountability and decided to finally get this done today.

This concept in a nutshell is about how when dealing with stress we’re conditioned to resist an action. This could be simply not doing the thing we’re dreading or not making a change that will help alleviate the stress. We kind of just power though. While attempting to resists this the problem, it still is persistent. This post is my first stab at tackling a very complex issue. I’ll cite research and anecdotal knowledge below, and break the post into three parts to help make the information more digestible.

Tackling Changes Head on

This is no secret; the idea of tackling change head on is much easier in theory than it is in practice. This is hard to do, not only because as human we are constantly rationalizing our decisions (i.e., I can always do/ or change that tomorrow or next week) but also because we’re very bad judges of ourselves despite all thinking that we’re great judges of others. Essentially over time what causes stress is all the blind spots that we have and from what I’ve learned the easiest way to combat this is to ask other people if what you’re thinking of you (how you view the world) matches what they’re thinking of you (how they view you in the world). If there is a difference between the two thoughts, then you have room for change. One disclaimer is that it’s important to have specific people, those who know you the best, be this resource. It doesn’t work by just asking anyone — as they might not have the context or desire to provide the feedback you need.

Not Being Afraid of the Unknown

Another cause of resistance is the fear of the unknown. According to a Harvard Business Review Article from 2012 one of the ten reasons why people will resist change is because people prefer to remain mired in misery than to head toward an unknown. “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.” This is similar for stress. I know sometimes I find myself mired in stressful situations, rather than working on finding a solution. I rationalize that I can deal with the stress but I can’t deal with the change and the stress; however what usually is hard to see is that within the unknown could actually be the solution to the stressful situation.

Acceptance of What Can’t be Controlled

In Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People he discuss the concept of the Circle Of Influence vs. the Circle Of Concern. Very simple concept about where we spend our time and energy. Most people spend their time on the outer circle (things that we cannot control), which consists of things like when your flight is leaving or who wins an NBA game. Don’t get me wrong I love sports, but the big finding here is that highly effective people worry about the things in the inner circle and don’t worry about things they can’t control. The kicker here is that the more you focus on the things you can influence the more that circle expands giving you more control and less worry about the things you can’t control.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and please feel free to like comment and share.