If It Weren’t For People, There Would Be No Stress

Last week at a stress management workshop I presented, the first participant walked in the room, looked at me, and said (half kidding, half not),

“If it weren’t for people, there would be no stress!”

Unfortunately this is a familiar sentiment when I present my workplace stress management program.  People, expectations, people not living up to expectations.  People are a big cause of workplace stress.

Or are they?

There was a time when I believed this to be true.  My lack of trust and personal defensive walls kept me disconnected from and frustrated with those around me.

Then I quit my job to start a wellness business.  I very quickly woke up and realized I couldn’t sustain a wellness business – which is in its simplest form a business about helping and connecting with people – if I wasn’t connected positively to people.

I needed to move from:

  • Judgment to compassion
  • Distrust to trust and vulnerability
  • Frustration to an open mind and ability to listen to others.

In order to make the shift I found myself:

  • Becoming aware of my current interactions with people
  • Taking responsibility for my part in the interaction
  • Choosing a new way to respond (favorably), even during times of disagreement.

The shift didn’t happen overnight and required practice, patience and study to learn and identify a new way of being with people.  The shift had to start with me.  Sure, there are days when I find myself falling into old patterns. The difference, however, is a new awareness.  I can catch myself before any harm is done.

What I realized is:  it’s not people who create stress, it’s how I interact with or respond to people that creates stress.  And how I interact with or respond to people is up to me.

The bottom line:  we need people in our lives. The most treasured times in my life are those moments I share with people – personally and professionally – laughing, crying, celebrating achievements. Even in the instances where different viewpoints are the norm, I always learn something when I listen with an open mind rather than attack or defend.  And on those days when I feel disconnected or frustrated I also feel lonely.  And that in itself can increase stress.

If it weren’t for people, there would be no stress.

What do you think? Do you believe that if it weren’t for people there would be no stress?  Or do you have a different viewpoint?

Lance at the Jungle of Life recently partnered with Joanna of Fitness and Spice to create an ebook in an effort to raise money for breast cancer research and awareness. When you donate to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, you’ll receive a free copy of the ebook that includes posts from hundreds of bloggers around the world.  To date the efforts of Lance and Joanna have  raised over $1000! A brilliant example of why we need people in our lives and how people can help relieve stress, rather than create it.  Click here for more information and to learn how you can support Blog4Cause.

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  • http://biglinkrally.com Tom Volkar / Big Link Rally

    I’d rather say that if it weren’t for me trying to put myself somewhere that I’m not – there would be no stress. Once I learned to stay present and create what I can with what I have stress pretty much no longer arises. Awareness and acceptance as you know are key. One can’t get rid of stress without taking the responsibility just as you said. Keep smacking them back to their senses; I’ve heard that those Boston drivers need it. :)

  • http://www.jungleoflife.com Lance

    Just today, I found myself meeting with someone who has definitely caused stress in my life at times. What was different, though, was that today – I chose to just fully listen and not get caught up in what I might normally perceive as a stressful moment. And it was okay. And that was because of how I chose to respond. Interestingly, he also told me as I was leaving that I didn’t get “mad” at him today. That surprised me. While it’s been stressful in the past, I didn’t think that is was something I was outwardly showing. Hmm… That’s not to say that I will enjoy working with this individual in the future – it does tell me, though, that I can choose how I respond – and that does make a difference. Not only for me, also for the other person.

    And, Stacey, thanks so much for the all your support for the Blog-4-Cause e-book. It is very much appreciated!!

    Have a GREAT weekend!

  • http://www.quietmindmeditation.blogspot.com Sarah

    Reminded me of a quote I wrote down some years ago .. a real favourite at the time .. I had to find it .. “If only I could throw away the urge to trace my patterns in your heart, I could really see you” David Brandon, Zen in the Art of Helping. Now pasted again on my pin board. Thanks Stacey for the reminder.

  • Evita

    This is a brilliant realization Stacey! I too once thought it was the people or external surroundings, but today know it is all about how we choose to react or interpret a certain situation.

  • http://theboldlife.com Tess The Bold Life

    Hi Stacey,
    One way to look at is let’s say there is a car accident on the way home fromwork and it’s blocking traffic. One person will become very upset whine and complain. Anthter will wonder what happened and think “crazy driver” it must have been a teenager. Someone else will think too many people text or talking on cell phones. Another may begin to pray for the people involved. Another my be grateful it isn’t them. And a final person will rarely run into any accident because they take the road less traveled home.

    Each of these people are going to feel stressful or not! One’s perception casues stress. If you are a person willing to go with the flow and get back to your senses your stress level will be very low!

  • http://staceyshipman.com Stacey Shipman

    Tom – Agreed – there is no stress in the present moment. And hey, go easy on those Boston folk (we’re not all asleep at the wheel!)

    Lance – Interesting story – thanks for sharing. We often don’t even realize our own responses and how those responses play out in a situation. No problem, best of luck with that ebook.

    Sarah – That is a powerful quote, I’m glad you have it near you again. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment!

    Evita – Absolutely -waking up to it is freeing, don’t you think?

    Tess – Great examples…and yes, it is a matter of perception – we define situations.

  • http://www.thelevityproject.com Katie West/The Levity Coach

    I am totally on board with what you are saying. WE cause our stress. That is not saying that there are not challenging times we face that provide the opportunity for stress, but I believe that those moments also provide the opportunities for growth, learning, and inner discovery…why else are we here on this planet?
    I think a common mis-approach I see is being surprised that life is messy. We get really bent out of whack. My practice of laughter has helped me take more things in stride and say “Oh, ha ha….that is really stressful or challenging.” This feels healthy for me and like I am better able to find a way through the experience with grace.
    Fab post!

  • http://allaboutjoy.typepad.com Megan “JoyGirl!” Bord

    I definitely think we create our own stress regardless of whether people are around or not. When I’m isolated and doing my own thing for days on end (which happens sometimes!), I create stress through my thoughts. Equally so, there were times in my former job when I felt stress from my interactions. I like how you pointed out that it’s all in how we think about other people or situations, though. Our thoughts are what create stress, not people.
    Granted, sometimes we’re surrounded by people who are not very uplifting, yet as you also said, those people can be our greatest teachers if we open our minds to them. Our points of stress are opportunities for learning and growth.

  • http://www.purposepowercoaching.com Chris Edgar

    Hi Stacey — I think that’s an important thing to keep in mind — that stress is a feeling that occurs in our own bodies, not an event that happens out in the world. I get the sense that, if we become aware of the usually unconscious ways that our bodies produce stress, we gain a lot more choice around how we react.

  • http://www.workhappynow.com Karl Staib – Work Happy Now

    I agree with Chris. It’s how we create our environment that dictates how we feel. No one can make me feel ashamed. Only I can do that.

    I know it’s difficult dealing with lousy people. I’ve been there. But we have to use these people as a way to be compassionate and improve our intelligence. If we can’t find a way to create a curiosity within ourselves we will always get pushed around my other people.

  • http://www.theemotionmachine.com Steven Handel

    Great post! I completely agree – stress can come from how we react to stimuli, not necessarily the stimulus itself. If we build equanimity towards life’s stress then we can be better focused when we act and make decisions. Thanks, I’m looking forward to reading more in the future.

  • http://www.thinkformoney.com Keith

    Hi Stacey,

    I am with you all the way on this one. I definitely used to think that others were the source of my stress and/or frustration. Thankfully, though it took years, I no longer feel that way. I now know that I choose how I respond to people and situations. It isn’t what happens to me in life but rather how I perceive what happens to me. I cannot say I have perfected this because I have not, but I can say that more often than not I am without stress. I love interacting with others and I definitely get more out of life nowadays.

    Thank you

  • http://staceyshipman.com Stacey Shipman

    Katie – Being surprised that life is messy – yes, that’s a great way to put it. We have a hard time dealing with change.

    Megan – Stress in thoughts, absolutely a big cause of overwhelm. I think every opportunity is one for learning, no matter how it makes us feel.

    Chris – Definitely the external world can trigger the stress, but we need to recognize it in ourselves to make any modifications.

    Karl – Definitely – we need to meet people where they are, meet ourselves where we are and open ourselves up to compassion.

    Hi Steven – Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! I definitely believe it’s in the reaction.

    Hi Keith – I hear you 100%. I’m not perfect either, hey we’re all human! But my interactions are much healthier and enjoyable as well.

  • http://www.astonishinglifestyle.com stress management techniques

    This is something awesome realization Stacey!

    I think a common mis-approach..It seems being surprised that life is messy. We get really bent out of whack. As far as my experience,laughter has helped me to take more things in step..that is really stressful or challenging.”
    This feels healthy for me and like I am better able to find a way through the experience with grace.

  • http://www.cathlawson.com Cath Lawson

    Hi Stacey – This is so true. The way we interact and react to people is important. There are certain people who used to make me feel stressed out. But I found that if i modified they way i reacted to them, I felt much better.

  • http://staceyshipman.com Stacey Shipman

    Hi Cath – Absolutely, and isn’t it an amazing feeling? It’s very freeing. Thanks for stopping by!

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