We are affected not only by overt stress (emotional vampires) but also the stress of which we are unconscious, that we may accept as just the way life. But there are things we can do to either alleviate stress or diminish stress. Think of yourself as an energy bank: energy is deposited, and energy is withdrawn. When the withdrawals exceed the deposits, fatigue, lowered immune function, depression, and ultimate systemic breakdown results. In any uncomfortable situation you always have three choices:
do nothing, and continue to put up with it
change the source of the discomfort
change your response to it
The “do nothing” option.
If you choose the first, of course, nothing will change except you will become more and more worn down.
The “change the source” option.
If you choose the second, you can politely but firmly tell the person that you can no longer talk to them, or—if that kind of assertiveness does not feel right, or possible —you can think of strategies to limit their demands on you. Close your eyes and imagine yourself answering the phone; caller ID has alerted you to an acquaintance who typically launches into a litany of complaints. Imagine saying: “Phil. Hi. I only have five minutes I’m afraid.” And when four and a half minutes have passed, saying: “I’m so sorry you’re having all these difficulties, but I’m going to have to say goodbye. I hope things get better soon.”
The “change your response” option.
The third option is for the situations in which it is not possible, or perhaps not even desirable, to eliminate the stressor from your life. Maybe your boss is driving you up the wall, but you like everything else about your job—it is interesting and challenging, it pays well, the hours work well for you, you get along well with your co-workers, and it’s conveniently close—and you really don’t want to quit. In this situation, changing your response to the stressor would be the best course of action for you. Easier said than done, right? Right. But eminently possible.
And again we begin with imagery, creating a special place in your mind where you can face your boss. Remember that within your own mind you have complete control: you can create any place you want, indoors or out; you decide on the vegetation, the color scheme, the season, the time of day. And if your boss tends to intimidate you, you can give yourself whatever you need in order to feel powerful and safe: a magic cloak, a shield of light, your guardian angel, or your own Samurai.
And perhaps there is so much stored up resentment that you first need to vent, and tell your boss exactly what you think of him or her. So go ahead, scream and curse all you want, and when you’ve got all that out of your system, you take a deep breath, surround the angry words in a bubble of light, and blow them away. Venting in the privacy of your own mind will give you relief; venting at your boss may give you temporary relief but is not going to get you to where you want to be. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger,” so says Proverbs. Stirring up his or her anger is not in your best interest, because the boss has more power than you and your goal is to stay at your job.
So there you are, in the safety of the mental sanctuary you have created. You have vented all the wrath and now you turn to the soft approach, speaking your truth clearly and firmly, articulating what you want and imagining him or her responding in the way you want them to respond, saying what you want to hear or at least being open to negotiation.
However disgusted, angry, frustrated, whatever, this person makes you feel, remember that your goal is to make your workplace a pleasant place for you. Your negative emotions just fuel the negative atmosphere. So approach this person as you would a stranger, with positive expectations. When you do feel ready to speak to your boss in person, whether or not he or she responds in the way you want you will feel better for having spoken your truth; you will not take personally his or her bad moods; and you will feel strong enough to say “no” to unreasonable demands.
Boy this blog has turned into a small dissertation and I am far from through about stress-related illnesses, well-ness and expanding on the real pathways of cortisol involvement.. But for anyone that needs more or who has questions:
Emotional Vampires and Your Hormones: an holistic physician’s view of how stress affects your well-being.