When was the last time that you flew off the handle? Do you remember the cause of it or how it was resolved after the dust had settled?
Often, stress builds up under the surface and then, when you least expect it, rears its ugly head. A good definition of stress is, "Pressure or tension exerted on a material object." If the material object is you, this post will apply all the more.
I once had a co-worker in the office who found me at the wrong time after what had been a difficult week. After we exchanged words, we went our separate ways.
To this day, I have no idea what we argued about.
Stress is like that. It blurs your thinking so that you are more likely to react instead of respond appropriately. Recently in the world of race car driving, a driver deliberately wrecked a competitor's car. When he was subsequently fined $100,000 and penalized by NASCAR, he defended his actions, "I guess I had to do what I had to do."
Doesn't exactly sound like remorse does it?
Instead of going off on someone, how can you remain calm when you would otherwise provide a knee-jerk reaction? Here are some practical suggestions:
Slow the game down. Step away from the situation. Turn off the computer, go for a walk, breathe. What you don't want to do is say something that you will regret so it's vital to give yourself some physical distance from the situation at hand. Turn your attention to someone or something totally unrelated to your stress.
Practice the 24 hour rule. That is to say, do not respond within the first 24 hours. There might be an exception to this such as an emergency scenario or when someone is in danger. Otherwise, do your best to not respond within the first 24 hours. This will take discipline and courage.
Seek advice. Ask 2 to 3 people that you trust what they would do in your shoes.
Watch your email. Many email errors take place because someone was in a rush. Guess what? Email lives for a long time (for a refresher on email etiquette, read Laura Stack's excellent piece on the proper use of email).
Speak with the person directly. Whomever it is that rubbed you the wrong way, approach her/him calmly and directly. Do not raise your voice but speak in a professional tone about what bothered you previously. If you're going to push the stress out of your body, let it begin with the words that come from your mouth. Don't approach the person in a hallway or public place but give your conversation the right context in which to take place. An office or meeting room make the most sense.
Pray over the situation. No matter how bad the situation may seem, God has seen far worse and can handle whatever mess you are in. Pray for yourself and for the person(s) causing you stress. I have found that this works 100% of the time.
Believe it or not, stess both causes and creates humility. It takes humility to present your stress to God. It takes even more humility to approach someone who causes you stress. It builds up humility inside of you when you admit weakness and vulnerability.
The words of St. Peter still ring true, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Question: which technique do you use to stay calm when faced with stress?
Photo cc by palestrina55 on Flickr.