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Stress Management

Stress is that thing you cannot see but feel. In a nutshell, it is a mental or physical response to an external cause. Stress can arise from many different areas of your life. Some things in your life you know will give you stress, no guessing, no surprise. Some examples are financial issues, or an older car with bald tires.

Stress can also come out of nowhere as well.  The unexpected bill, or the car breaking down at the absolute worst time. Being prepared and understanding these feelings can help reduce the impacts of stress.

John F. Kennedy characterized stress as a “dangerous opportunity.” He also said, “Those who are best prepared will survive, and even prosper. Those who are not prepared will find that which they hold most precious in dire jeopardy.”

So, what is stress? Stress can be defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. Stress can host a wide range of responses, but ultimately, it results in an upset in the homeostasis of the body.

Stress can be considered our reaction to what we live, see, hear, eat, dream, and what we are. So, this makes one ponder, is all stress bad? The simple answer is no; eustress is a moderate or normal psychological stress interpreted as being beneficial. This type of “good stress” comes from pushing oneself towards a goal. This type of stress has a significantly positive correlation with life satisfaction, hope, and survival. Setting a goal and running a marathon could be considered eustress. Or, for me, running a couple of miles will accomplish the same effect.  

“Stress should be a powerful driving force, not an obstacle.” – Bill Phillips

An example I like to think of for different kinds of stress is golf and working out. I find I cannot sleep well the night before golf, just dreaming of all the amazing shots, being hoisted in the air by my friends after shooting the course record. On the contrary, for my work out, I typically dread getting to the gym and making it happen. But I can speak for myself and tell you an opposite unexpected effect occurs for each of these examples.  

When I get on the golf course and double bogie the first hole, lose two balls on the second hole and start a downward spiral to a personal record-breaking high score, it becomes a self-induced stressful event. Three-foot putts become knee-knocking, blood pressure rising affairs. I sometimes leave the course wondering why I spent good money to feel so bad.  

On the other hand, I do not look forward to the gym and even find myself making excuses as to why I cannot make an appearance.  You know, excuses such as “It’s sunny,” or “It might rain sometime this week” or my favorite, “I got a paper cut, better not risk it.”

I have found once I drag myself to the gym and get my old body going, I feel so much better. I leave feeling less stressed, less worried, and overall, just better about myself. I found I am concentrating on the music and the workout itself and not my work, home life, or any other stress-producing events. My mind is focused on the workout and not the million other things consuming my day.  

“One of the best ways to reduce stress is to accept the things you cannot control” – M.P. Neary 

I find it amazing how much we stress over the things we cannot control. If you find yourself stressing over other people’s problems, it might be time to make a list. This list should have two columns, one with the title, can control, and the other with cannot control. Under those titles, list what is in your power, under your control, and then what is totally not under your control. Examine that list and become at peace with letting go of the list not under your control. Those things are not worth your stress, time, or energy. Let it go. Actually, writing this list has a magical therapeutic result and may reveal something that was bothering you that you didn’t even realize.   

I was once told, “Other people’s opinions of me are none of my business.” With that in mind, I took the mindset that I would not worry about what others think. All I can do is all I can do, and if I am doing my best, then that is what it is, and I must let the rest go.  

There are different levels of stress as well. Distress is excessive stress which can lead to mental and physical strain or suffering. This could also be considered critical incident stress. This is the type of stress that overwhelms our normal coping abilities. This type of stress stems from events where an individual experiences or witnesses tragedy, death, serious injuries, or threatening situations. This can be at work or at home. The good news is normally the effects are short-term. Understand this, no one is immune. If you have been in the security business for a while, you might find yourself dismissing these sources of stress. You might simply accept them and don’t acknowledge the effect that they have on us.

Throughout your career, you will spend an above-average amount of time in a hypervigilance state of mind. You have the stress of always watching, listening, and being in a state of readiness for crime or violence. The thought of being injured or killed by criminals is something that can weigh heavily on your mind, thus producing stress.  

In the world of security, you may be encountering hostile and inflammatory individuals, thus the constant state of hypervigilance. You must repress and restrain several natural emotional responses that might occur in these situations and remain professional.  The continual effort to smother these emotional responses can be stressful.  

“The truth is that stress doesn’t come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about your circumstances.” – Andrew Bernstein

So, let’s talk about stress immunity. Preparing yourself with knowledge and solutions:

  1. Understanding Your Hypervigilance
    • Know that you need downtime, time to feel safe, and not always on alert.
  2. Develop Realistic Expectations Regarding Your Job
    • Know you can’t be everything for everyone, do your best then let it go.
  3. Understanding the Effects of Stress
    • Lack of sleep, headaches, stomach issues, anxiety, short temper, random crying.
  4. Accept the Fact You Can Be Affected
    • Watch for signs and symptoms and realize, it could be stress, not indigestion.
  5. Strive for Balance In Your Life
    • You must find time for the things you enjoy, and working out is an amazing stress reliever, even if it’s just a brisk walk.
  6. Don’t Develop a “Singular Identity” As a Security Professional
    • Everyone has a life outside of work; be in the moment of that time, not on your phone, and surround yourself with positive people; they will encourage you and support you.
  7. Understand Your Known Stresses, Make a List
    • Control your finances, be disciplined with spending, and create a budget. Choose the people you surround yourself with wisely. Pick positive, upbeat people who support and encourage you.

It’s important to identify your areas of repetitive stress and develop a plan to build better resiliency, coping skills, and a plan of attack to manage that stress. Be smart enough and strong enough to realize sometimes you might need help. That may be a friend, family member, or possibly a mental health professional.  

“Mental health awareness doesn’t mean fighting stress, anxiety, depression and other everyday mental health issues, rather it means consciously modulating the habits, instead of checking your habits, you would automatically be in a much better shape, both mentally and physically.” – Abhijit Naskar

As a security team, we must “be there” for each other. You work closely with your partners. Be comfortable talking with a colleague who might be calling in sick a lot, depressed, negative, or complaining about everything.  Have that conversation to see if they are okay. Sometimes, all we need is an ear to listen, be it a friend or a professional.  Also, if you have golf tips, I am still looking for that course record.  

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