De-Stress for Success -
practicing your A-B-C's
It was 5 PM on a Saturday
evening. I was about to enjoy an early
dinner with some friends, followed by a
7 PM movie. There was only one person in the restaurant
when we arrived. I saw this as a
promising sign - that we were likely to get served quickly. We could have a leisurely meal and get to our
movie in plenty of time.
After placing our orders, we
sipped, chatted, and anticipated the arrival of our food. Five thirty came and went. Our soups didn't arrive until 5:45!
At this point I was no longer
relaxed. I was worried - would we make
it to the movie on time? I felt restless
and fidgety. I looked at my watch
repeatedly. At 6:05 - one hour after
we'd ordered -- our meals still hadn't been served.
I decided to speak up. As I approached the counter, I saw that the
staff was packing up a huge take-out order instead of preparing/serving in the
dining room. In an irate tone, I let the
waitress know that I was not happy. Why
were they taking outside orders when they couldn't handle the ones inside? She apologized profusely and assured me that
our food would be out momentarily. I
didn't believe her, and I was right!
By the time our entrees
arrived at 6:20 PM - my stomach was in a
knot. I bolted down my meal, barely
tasting my dinner. We had to rush to get
to the movie - and arrived just as the film was beginning. My upset over my dining experience
lingered. Although my body was at the
movies, my mind was still at the restaurant, rehashing what had happened.
Has something like this ever
happened to you? What I felt in that
restaurant was STRESS!!! Irony of
ironies - when this incident befell me- I was in the midst of writing a
presentation about handling stress. It
was fascinating to see myself-- smack dab in the middle of a major
episode. This led me to ponder--: How
could I have handled this differently?
In my research, I discovered Dr. Albert Ellis's A- B-C strategy for managing stress. In this approach, A is what's triggering you,
B are your beliefs about A, and C are the consequences (stress) that result
from holding onto your beliefs.
Dr. Ellis suggests that, to
manage stress effectively, you choose from the following options:
1. Change your "A" - the
source of your stress. Hindsight
being 20/20, I realize that, instead of waiting and silently fuming at the
restaurant, I could have spoken up sooner or chosen to leave once I saw that
they were so far behind schedule.
2. Change your "B" - your
beliefs about the source of your stress. Although I felt like a helpless victim in that restaurant, I knew that
the delay wasn't personal. They weren't
out to upset me. Their intentions were
good. They had just made some poor
decisions and were now coping with them as best they could. Acknowledging this might have consoled me in
the midst of my upset.
3. If you can't change the cause of your
stress, nor your reactivity, then find a way to manage the inevitable reaction that
you will experience (your "C.") The
act of sharing might have calmed me down. I could have been more open with my friends about how upset I was
feeling. Their perspectives on the
situation might have helped soothe my frayed nerves. I could also have tried to distract myself
or used some deep breathing. In my
experience, all of these tools can be helpful when you're willing to use them.
Stress is potent and
potentially harmful. Unfortunately, it's
so prevalent that it's almost unavoidable. By choosing to de-stress, and by practicing helpful techniques, you can
improve your mood and health. The next
time that you're getting worked up over an upsetting situation, remember you're
A-B-C's. They teach what is so wisely
advised in the Serenity Prayer:
That you -
- accept the things you cannot
- have the courage to change
the things you can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.