I distinctly remember my first experience with a tiger at the zoo. The tiger was a gorgeous creature. It moved with subtle power. The fur was radiant and I had an urge to cuddle up and stoke that soft coat like I would cuddle and pet our precious family kitten, Mollie.
Then the zookeeper came to feed the tiger and I stood in amazement as it grabbed a 30-pound steak and--without any manners--wolfed it down in two bites.
Satisfied with its meal, the huge feline opened its mouth and roared. The sound was deafening and I took four steps backwards with astonishment to make sure I was well out of harm's way. The strong steel fence separating us suddenly looked frail!
Stress can be as seductive as this tiger at the zoo. There is a very flimsy fence that separates us from the good stress that moves us into action (the fulfilling kind of stress called 'eustress' or urgency) and the bad stress that cripples productivity (that we experience as 'distress'). For instance, when we are seduced by a personal "pity party" - the magnificence of the tiger - we elicit unwarranted sympathy from others while excusing ourselves from taking action. We are figuratively stroking a fierce tiger that has the power to devour us in two bites.
Science has proven that distress affects your body in a myriad of ways from headaches to backaches. So figuratively speaking, the fierce tiger of distress eats at your body. How long has it been since you were still for a moment and "listened" to the tension in your body? Does your body have to ROAR like the tiger to get you to slow down and reduce your distress levels? Or can it whisper to you and have you take action?
Just last week I picked up a book I had not opened for years, The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. Again I read the first paragraph: "Life is difficult. Once you accept that, it no longer matters." I was inspired to reevaluate my stress levels and stop stroking the stress tiger but rather, strengthen my stress fence.
Your stress fence, or the wall between you and the tigers of life, helps you accept the things you cannot change. This, in turn, helps you find life wonderful, even though it is definitely not perfect.
Five strategies to help you stop stroking the stress tiger are:
Karla Brandau, CSP, is an expert in change, leadership and team building in the flat world. She offers keynotes and workshops to move your organization forward. Sign up for her monthly newsletter, From the Desk of Karla Brandau by going to Karla Brandau.com. Karla is available for consultation on how to reduce stress and increase efficiency in your workplace. Call 770-923-0883 to schedule some time with Karla today.