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Saturday Musings - Handling Stress


I know of very few people that don’t suffer from stress and fewer still that haven’t been massively stressed at some time during their life. So over the years, what have I learned about handling stress?

When I was training for my private pilot's license, my flying instructor explained to me a simple principle about how to handle stress in the cockpit. He said there may be a time when the workload increases to the point where you become incredibly stressed and find your decision making suffers.

I must admit that I thought that could never happen to me, after all, I’m a smart guy so my instructor must have been thinking about other people. How many times have you listened to someone sharing some wisdom born out of experience only to think they were talking to someone else?

About six months later I found myself taking off in a faster plane than I was used to. It also had retractable undercarriage and a different system for managing the propeller which complicated things a little more. As I headed skyward I looked forward and saw a huge fog bank coming towards the airport from the ocean (this rarely happens). I had to instantly change all my plans and get the plane back on the ground.

I turned the plane downwind and a frightening thing happened, it got in front of me. What does this mean? I had so much workload in the cockpit and communicating with the tower that I nearly froze in my decision making. It was a scary moment and one that I’ve never experienced before.

It was at this time that the sage words of my instructor came to mind. He said, if the plane ever gets in front of you then slow the plane down. I took his advice and throttled back. Suddenly everything in the cockpit returned to normal and I safely landed the aircraft. I’ve never forgotten this experience as it taught me a lot about how to handle stress.

If you’re experiencing stress in your life then the number one thing you should do is make a decision to slow down. Take some time out, go away for 48 hours and sort out what are the real priorities that you should be working on.

Over the last 20 years I've seen many people big change from a “working to live” to “live to work” mentality. One of the problems with our 24/7 culture is that you risk being 100% available 100% of the time. This will eventually kill you or at the very least be detrimental to your health and close relationships.

One of the most under-valued feature of any cell phone is the off switch. My recommendation is to use it and take a break from the frenetic lifestyle that many of us lead. You don’t always need to be at someone else’s beck-and-call. How about taking some time out just for you….now there’s a novel idea!

I’ve also found that structuring your life with time-out every week is really important. For instance, other than my Saturday Musings, Roselyn knows that I don’t do any work on the weekend unless there is a disaster. To keep fresh and invigorated during the week I need the break.

Many years ago, I used to work to 3-4am every weeknight and I’d wear the number of hours I worked like a badge of honour on my chest. A good friend of mine told me that I was crazy and said that during the work day I would be less potent and make worse decisions my perpetually tired state.

I took his advice and I stopped working the long hours (except when I every so often do some late night development but that’s more fun!) and a funny thing happened. I still got all my work done. He was right! I became more efficient in my working time after a good night’s rest.

I’ve also learned not to be driven by other people. Here’s a good saying for you to say to someone that may be very demanding, “I’m not going to let lack of planning on your part become urgent on mine.” This can happen a lot in corporate life where someone else drops the ball and you end up picking up the pieces…..don’t do it, otherwise they will continually place demands on you.

As you head into your weekend I hope this article on stress has given you some food for thought. Maybe it’s about time you reward yourself with some “me” time so you can think about your life rather than be driven by the demands placed upon you.

Have a great weekend!

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Tuesday, 04 August 2020
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