Try to Remove or Change Your Sources of Stress

Normally onresilience.com is about ways you can become more resistant to stressful demands. That was not always our main focus. There was a time when we placed much more emphasis on changing social and physical environments.

Consider the “Demand-Control” model of work stress. Its key idea is that when your work makes high demands, but gives you little control over how you do the work, that is a formula for breakdown, e.g. increased cardiovascular disease.

There is an abundance of evidence that empowering employees is good for both organizations and employees. Yet we shifted our direction toward teaching people how to keep themselves well even when they were overloaded and disempowered. Why did we do that?

Because, at least in our part of the world, powerful forces were stripping most people of the modest control they had. We saw the writing on the wall, and wanted to make the best of the new realities we faced. So we shifted our focus to the best ways to flourish in spite of unsupportive environments.

However, we do not want to go too far with the shift, so today’s post will be on taking a look at things in your day to day world that distress you, and modifying them as much as you can.

People can survive and come back to live well from the most damaging of environments, places like concentration camps, extended solitary confinement in tiny cells, etc. It’s a great testimony to the power of human resilience.

But no one would be foolish enough to go into a concentration camp or nasty solitary confinement voluntarily. Common sense tells us to examine our personal world and identify what makes it hard for us to flourish.

Survey the sources of pressure that impact you. Is there someone or something that is making life harder for you? Think about it, and then take a problem-solving approach to finding ways to eliminate or minimize those intrusions. And do what you can to change these disturbing aspects of your life.

While thinking about how to make changes, be sure to keep in mind that you are not alone. It is all too easy to ignore requests for change if you are an isolated person requesting the change. Coalescing with others can really make a difference. If you sense that you are not alone in your discomfort, discuss it with potential allies. Even if only one or two people back you up, chances that you will be taken seriously are greatly improved.

Sometimes there are things that are driving us up the wall, and yet are easily changed. It may be as simple as asking someone in the next cubicle to please stop doing whatever is bothering you. So you should try being at least a little assertive about what they are doing that bothers you. Don’t wait until you are so aggravated that you attack the person, just ask for change in a courteous, kindly way. You may be surprised how often that is enough.

Often we can make small changes that can have a large impact. We may not be able to stop the annoyance, but still be able to reduce it enough to make our lives better.

Then there are situations we just can’t change. Those are very common, and they are exactly where training yourself to be more resilient comes in.

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