Your boss is pressing you to meet a challenging deadline. You have a presentation to give that you haven’t had time to prepare. Your finances have taken a dive and you don’t have enough to pay the mortgage. Your partner is threatening to leave you because you spend too much time at work. In case these pressures aren’t enough, the one person you depend on for support at work has just gone off sick.
If this was your situation, do you think you might feel stressed? Most would, some wouldn’t.
Those who wouldn’t can be described as being ‘stress resilient’. To be stress resilient you need to be able to focus only on what needs to be done and to always take appropriate and effective action, despite significant or multiple pressures.
Stress costs business billions every year. It diminishes motivation and effectiveness and has been estimated to be a root cause of 80% of absence from work, either directly through stress or indirectly due to illnesses arising from stress.
In my own experience I used to be off work a few days each year with minor illnesses such as colds or flu. Since I’ve eliminated stress from my life 20 years ago, I’ve never had a day off work (except once due to injury). I know this is true of many other people I know and its certainly true of everyone I’ve trained in these techniques.
Some stress management trainings focus on persuading us to resolve our problems or other sources of stress, which of course is sensible, to the extent we’re able to. Others teach relaxation techniques, which can be helpful in the short term but are not generally a reliable way of avoiding stress. Some stress management consultants put the responsibility on the organisation, suggesting it’s the job of the employer to ensure employees aren’t stressed. This is certainly true in extreme cases, but is rarely the answer to avoiding most day-to-day stresses.
To be a truly stress-resilient person who never experiences stress, irrespective of whether problems can be contained or quickly resolved, needs no relaxation techniques and doesn’t depend on protection from others to avoid stress.
So what distinguishes someone who is stress-resilient? Self assurance is clearly a factor but this takes time to build and even those who have it are far from immune to stress. The most significant factor is the way we think about issues and this can be changed very quickly with training. Stress results from ‘resisting what is’. The corollary is ‘accepting what is’.
Few have come across this term, even fewer know what it means. Yet people who are stress-resilient are able to ‘accept what is’ in any situation, often without realising this is what they’re doing.
In our culture, the word ‘acceptance’ often has negative connotations as it’s generally associated with resigning ourselves to situations or not trying to change them, and this is often seen as weak, unless we’re just accepting those things we cannot possibly change.
‘Accepting what is’ is a very different concept. It means not wishing something were ALREADY different. Wishing things were already different is wishing for the impossible. Almost all unhappiness, dissatisfaction and stress involves wanting something to be already different. The only exception is worrying about the future.
‘Accepting what is’ is helpful in any challenging situation, whether or not we can immediately change it. Indeed, when we ‘accept what is’ we can focus only on what we need to do to resolve the situation.
If I’m under pressure to meet a challenging deadline, and I’m unhappy or stressed about this, I’m not ‘accepting what is’. ‘Accepting what is’ involves saying to myself, “this is the situation right now. It makes no sense to wish it were already different and I’ll gain nothing by doing so. If I totally ‘accept what is’ I can focus on what I need to do to resolve the issue or make it different: meet the deadline, ask for help, change the deadline or whatever.
People who ‘accept what is’ focus on solutions not problems, so they don’t feel stressed.
‘Accepting what is’ can also be applied to the future, so eliminating worry, another source or symptom of stress.
Some people naturally ‘accept what is’, perhaps having acquired this way of thinking from others when they were young. For most it’s a skill, which like any other skill, needs to be learned and practiced. The technique I developed, and now use on a daily basis, is called Positive Acceptance.
Learning this skill is a core component of Acceptance-Action Therapy (AAT). In a personal development context it’s taught as a ‘personal effectiveness and achievement’ training called Acceptance-Action Training. AAT was developed and is presented by Abicord Ltd.
Everyone can be taught how to eliminate stress, become more motivated, effective and fulfilled, achieve more, improve their relationships and gain more satisfaction from their work and their whole lives.
By ‘accepting what is’ you can be truly ‘stress resilient’.
About Graham W Price
Graham W Price specialises in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance-Action Therapy (AAT). His company, Abicord Ltd, offers seminars or DVDs on Acceptance-Action Training. See www.abicord.com .
Graham’s book What Is, Is! The Power of Positive Acceptance, based on his training, is available from Amazon and good bookshops. A free pre-view can be downloaded at http://www.what-is-is.com/ .