Is Your Stress Self Induced?
Some people are just so driven that they actually create their own stress. Not only do they create stress for themselves, but for others around them (remember my blog on second hand stress?). You can often observe this in parents of young children who are so busy projecting their dreams onto their children that they create a tidal wave of stress throughout the house. These people are so obsessed about being “the best” at everything that they lose sight of what life is about. They rarely enjoy their lives and make sure that their children also do not enjoy the lives they have, either. They can be found heading up charity drives, school committees, being sports team leaders and in a dozen other activities. People often look at them with envy because they seem to have it all and are so ambitious. In reality, they have very little. Ambition is good – driving everyone around you nuts to validate your life because of personal insecurity, is not.
Perfectionism vs. Excellence
Take the example of the upwardly mobile manager, very focused on her career. She expected to be perfect at all she did and expected no less than the best from all of her employees. She couldn’t understand why anyone would settle for anything less than perfection and became known as “the Slave Driver” throughout the office. She knew that this was the nickname that had been given her and didn’t care. She was proud of being a “perfectionist.” A perfectionist, by the way, is not a good thing to be. Because it has the word “perfect” in it, many people proudly call themselves “perfectionists.” It stems from gross insecurity. A perfectionist will never be satisfied with anything and will rarely be happy. Worse yet is the perfectionist who becomes a parent or a boss. In some of my presentations I have the audience stand up and join me in declaring, with as much energy as possible, “I am perfect.” This usually does not result in much energy. When I ask them how achievable they feel it is I usually get a laugh and a “not very” response. When I repeat the exercise substituting “I am excellent” the result is very different. The energy is high and most people believe they can achieve it.
In addition to being herself a major stress factor for her employees, she was also a stress factor for her children and husband, of whom of course, she expected “the best.” Her children felt compelled to excel in everything they did in order to please their mother. Her husband felt that she was beyond being.
When the children were young, they were “exposed” to many different sports, each of which they were expected to excel. The mother was never really athletic, so she projected her wish to be athletic onto her children. After work, she spent most of her time driving her children back and forth to various games and sporting events. Her friends marvelled at how much energy she seemed to have.
Worry and Health
She wanted to be sure that her had every advantage to succeed in life.
Despite the fact that she seemed to “have it all,” she was far from happy. She felt like she was on a roller coaster all of the time, yet she didn’t know how to stop it. Unfortunately, a heart attack was the result of her continued, self-induced stress.
From Distress to Balance
Fortunately, she survived her heart attack, after which she began to look at life much differently. The heart attack forced her to relax and get grounded. She began to realize what was important in life. It also got her to understand that she was driving herself and everyone around her, into a state of stressful frenzy. She was really fortunate to have discovered a whole new life. Her husband also appreciated her new attitude and became more attentive. Her children relaxed. Her employees stopped calling her names behind her back and began to see her for the truly talented individual she was.
Many of us have only ourselves to blame for our stress. It is self-induced because we feel compelled to have to “do everything.” Self-induced stress is a product of modern times. People today tend to judge success on how many material possessions they have and how well their children compete with others. (The exception to this is some of the younger generation – and enlightened older – that now live with fewer material possessions and spend their money on experiences that make them happy.) Many parents today involve their kids in some sort of organized sport in which the parent, instead of the child, is competing. While organized sports are great for kids who express an interest in athletics, it is not right to force your child to participate in sports that he or she is not interested in joining.
We are activity driven with our families and ourselves during leisure time. At work we are expected to do more with less. It is no wonder that people are stressed out. We never give ourselves, or our children, a chance to just relax! When was the last time you went with your family on a picnic? Do people even do this anymore or has it become “a waste of time?”
However, this new way of life is not without a price. And the price is that most people end up eating poorly and feel “stressed out” because of their lifestyle. When we add kids into the mix and our expectations for them, which are really based upon our expectations for ourselves, we end up with a very stressed life.
We can either chose to live with self-induced stress and continue on a merry go round of anxiety like our manager, or we can slow down and eliminate some of the stressors from our lives. It is your choice. Simple living is happy living.
Are you experiencing self induced stress? Many people say that they are more relaxed at work than they are at home. If you cannot relax at home, where can you relax? Do you even know how to relax? Some people actually feel guilty when the are “doing nothing.”
People today tend to expect way too much from themselves and very few people know how to relax. As a result, they are raising children who also do not know how to relax. What have we got to look forward to except a future generation stressed out adults?
Signs of Self-induced Stress
Some signs of self-induced stress are the following:
- You do not have time to talk to friends because you are always “running around”
- Your children are involved in no less than two activities a week
- You look forward to the day when Taco Bell offers charge accounts
- Your kids do not know what mashed potatoes are unless they come in a KFC package
- You feel you can relax at work better than you can at home
- You feel guilty if you have nothing to do
- You eagerly count the days until (pick one) Soccer, Basketball, Baseball or Ballet season ends.
If you identified with one or more of the above situations, chances are that you are experiencing some signs of self-induced stress.