What stress is and is not 17
The secret of managing stress: control
The importance of control
The fact that the symptoms of what we call ‘stress’ arise from
your internal response is good news. If it is something inside
ourselves, then it is also something that we can control. And if
there is one single concept that sums up the source of stress and
its solution, it is control. Stress comes from feeling that we do
2 Pressure to work harder
3 Poor resources (equipment, processes, materials)
4 Colleagues
5 Travel
6 Long or antisocial hours
Change stressors
1 Injury or illness
2 Traumatic experience
3 Death or illness of a loved one
4 Pregnancy or a new baby
5 Job loss or retirement
6 Moving home
Relationship stressors
1 Divorce, separation or relationship breakdown
2 Marriage or moving in with a partner
3 Major decisions and disputes
4 Sexual problems
5 Major holidays and festivals
6 Parent–child problems
18 brilliant stress management
not have control and we solve it by
regaining control – control of our-
selves, control of our fear, control of
our impulses and even control of our
In Figure 1.4, it is the things that concern you, but that you
cannot control, which cause you stress. Brilliant stress manage-
ment is about two things:
1 Focusing on the things that you can control, while
accepting what you cannot.
2 Testing the boundaries to extend your zone of control to its
fullest extent.
stress comes from
feeling that we do not
have control
© Mike Clayton, 2011
Things I can
Things I cannot
Figure 1.4 Control in your life
How you respond to stress is your choice. The one source of all
your feelings of being stressed is your mind. The stress does not
What stress is and is not 19
do the damage – rather, it is the way you respond to it that does
the damage, or not.
Four failures to control
Before we look at taking control, which will ll the rest of this
book, let’s start by recognising the ways people nd to relinquish
control over their lives. Each one is a way to avoid responsibility
for our own stress.
‘There is no problem’, ‘I am in control’, ‘it’s only temporary’.
How often have you heard yourself deny what you know deep
down: you are in trouble. But don’t be too hard on yourself:
denial is the rst response we all have to adverse change, so
these responses are totally natural. We’ve spent a lot of this
chapter referring to your ‘ght-or-ight’ response, but the
rst reex we all have when faced with danger is neither ght
nor ight: it is fright. Like a hedgehog facing an articulated
Think about a dried-up old tree with shallow roots and brittle twigs. If we
put that tree under stress, what will happen? In a strong wind, it may blow
over . . . or it may simply snap in two.
Now think of a mighty oak tree, with deep roots and a solid trunk. In the
same wind, under the same stress, it just does not move. Its roots go deep
into the solid ground and its trunk is strong and confident. Or think of a
thin, supple willow. In the greatest of gales it bends and twists, moving this
way and that, absorbing the stresses without leaving the place it is rooted
to. Each has a different kind of strength – but each is equally strong.
The external stressors in your life are like that gale. How you respond to
them is your choice.

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