Where stress really comes from

My day job is working as a Project Manager in Advertising Agencies managing digital projects (website builds and campaigns). The projects are often complex, with deadlines, clients, resources and budgets to manage. As a contract Project Manager, I move from Agency to Agency and project to project every few months or so. Whenever I move to a new Agency there’s what I call “the ramp up period” where I grapple to get a handle on the project. During this period I would get stressed out and look outside of myself for ways to ease the stress I was feeling. In the first few weeks of a new project I would start smoking and I would hit the beers at the end of the day to help me de-stress. After a while when I gained control of the project and knew what I was doing I would stop smoking and go on a bit of a health kick to make up for my recent unhealthy binges. This habitual cycle continued for years and it left me exhausted, hating my work and wanting to quit.

We often hear that stress is not good for our health. What actually happens is physiologically our nervous system actually goes into “fight or flight” mode which means our pupils dilate, digestive processes shut down and our blood pressure increases to quickly pump blood to our limbs so we can escape the immediate threat of being eaten by lions or tigers. The thing is of course where the "fight or flight" response could save our lives in the past, these days there are no lions or tigers, just clients, bosses and deadlines. But no one tells our nervous systems this. So we’re left with an outdated physical response to an outdated threat.

From a psychological perspective we get it wrong as well. I was blaming the cause of my stress on the project or the deadline or the client. But the reality is that there is no way a project or deadline or the client (however nasty they are) can cause stress. If that was the case everyone presented with a busy project would get stressed but some people thrive on busy projects and deadlines and some just get on with it with little fuss. This is because projects, clients and deadlines are neutral. It’s our thinking and the meaning we give to our thinking that causes us to have stressful feelings. Our feelings, good bad or indifferent come from our thinking. Always!

This is what I’ve come to learn from the understanding behind Clarity. That we create our experience from the inside out. And it turns out that we get this wrong most of the time and attribute our feelings to circumstances or events. What we call the outside in misunderstanding.

So why does this matter? Well it’s made a big impact on me and many people I know. When I got this it changed everything for me and it still does. For example the implication for me in my work is that I’m much calmer (something that has been noted by my work colleagues time and time again), I don’t hate my work anymore, I’ve quit smoking and I only drink on happy social occasions and not to get over “stressful” work days.  

If you haven’t already watched it, take two minutes to watch the Clarity video. The voices are of real people who have been deeply impacted by knowing where their feelings come from.

One love!