Learn What Really Stresses You Out

Indian Rhino Checking Us Out

Two tons of potential stress just relaxing.

HighCallingBlogs.com and Robert Hruzek of MiddleZoneMusings.com are joining forces again to talk about what we’ve learned from stress. (The project is still open, just visit that link if you want to participate.)

The Reality of Stress

Stress is a core reality in this fallen world we live in. There is no such thing as a care free life, at least not one that’s firmly anchored in reality.

I think one key to happiness, or even survival then is to get a firm grasp of what really stresses you out. We’re all different and things affect us all differently.

An ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations. A repo man spends his life getting in to tense situations. — Bud in Repo Man

Throughout my career I’ve had what most folks would consider fairly stressful jobs. I prefer to think of them as high intensity jobs.

Stress from Physical Danger

I’ve worked in some physically dangerous environments. Whether it was the fight deck of an aircraft carrier or on the docks working cargo operations, I’ve seen a few men killed by work related accidents while I was on the job.

I’ve even been hurt myself. Loosing focus for even a fraction of a second can have disastrous consequences. My left index finger has a nice little scar to remind me how easily I could have lost a fingertip hooking up cargo to a ship’s crane one day.

And I watched in stunned horror one bright morning when a friend of mine ejected from his F/A-18 as it rolled over immediately after launching from the front of the carrier. He waited just a moment too long to pull the handle and ejected down into the water. His mistake was fatal.

But I boarded my plane just the same and rode down that same catapult into the sky, all kinds of questions swirling through my brain.

That stress of physical danger never seemed to bother me all that much. What it did was serve to keep me paying attention.

Unexpected Stress

It wasn’t until I became The Lonely Entrepreneur that I really had to deal with negative affects of stress. For me stress came from an unexpected direction.

Turns out I’m a little like Eddie, the dog from Frasier. The way the story goes, Moose, the Jack Russel Terrier that played Eddie was rescued. His original owners thought he was neurotic and unmanageable. However trainer, Matilde DeCagney, discovered that Moose just needed to work. When he was bored he got into trouble.

I guess I’m a little like Moose. I don’t do well when I’m bored.

No Stress More Stressful than Lots of Stress

It sounds weird, but I’ve got a medical bill, hundreds of dollars large, this year to prove that I get stressed out when my environment gets too low in intensity. Since my Lonely Entrepreneur experience earlier in the year I’ve learned how to manage the stress that lack of intensity gives me.

Working out has been a key factor in managing my stress. Exercise gives me an outlet to relieve the stress from too little stress in my life.

Ironically when I took my stress test a few months back the cardiologist ended up cutting it short. He gave up trying to get to my target heart rate after I’d been running on the treadmill twice as long as it usually takes to get people maxed out. Apparently there is nothing wrong with my cardio fitness!

So, to answer Robert’s original question of What I Learned From Stress – I learned that, for some of us, no stress can be more stressful than being in a high stress environment. I guess I’ve got a little repo man in me.

Here’s a little compilation video of Eddie stressing out Frasier I found. Enjoy!

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  1. It’s rather ironic, Chris, that what you learned should be true. Thanks for bringing up a point about stress that most of us completely forget about! The fact is, we’re created to work; having nothing to do sounds like heaven to most people – that is, until they really start thinking it through.

    The key, when everything is said and done, is to find the balance. There’s the sweet spot where stress levels are perfectly matched. And for each of us, it’s different.

    Cheers, Bubba!

  2. Oops. Messed up the close on those italics. Sorry! :-\

  3. Yeah, Robert. I’ll be the first to admit that I have potential for a lazy streak. But I still need to have something worthwhile to do or it starts to eat me up.

    And no worries about the italics thing. You opened it with an “em” tag and closed it with a “/i” tag. Nothing like mixing your HTML tags! I just went in and edited that for ya! :)

  4. Yeah, I’m still trying to remember to switch to /em after using /i for so long! Old dogs, you know… :-\

  5. What I think is profound about what you learned from stress is that when you had a more stressful job that it forced you to pay attention. It’s this awareness and being in the present moment that can make the difference in how we respond to stress. Sometimes when we don’t have external factors creating stress in our lives, we can get caught up in our own thoughts and stories to create the same or more stress internally.


  6. I’m laughing at your comment Sonya because Gorgeous often quotes the Dog Whisperer to me telling me to “be in the moment.”

    A Brazilian friend of mine claimed that driving on US highways was much more dangerous than driving in his country. If you’ve ever been there you’d understand why I thought he was crazy. But he said that our roads are so boring that it’s hard to pay attention to driving and easier to have an accident.

    Sounds like you are onto something!

  7. I completely agree with you about stress being a sure sign of the fallen nature of man. The world we live in is moving too fast for our conscious mind. But don’t worry about it. We adapt to survive.

  8. I believe there’s such a thing as stress addiction. There are people who are fundamentally unhappy when they aren’t dealing with a high-stress situation. I don’t know if it’s some kind of addiction to one’s own dopamine production, or what, but I do know that it’s very real.

    Some of us are great at completely shutting down and relaxing in a calm environment. Others have a need to be active even during downtime and start to get edgy and fidgety is something isn’t “happening”.

    The irony in your post is a great proof that different roads can end in the same place!


  9. If you did not have stress then your life would be boring, stress it what makes the world go round.

  10. I agree Mr. Dishwashers. People need stress, because overcoming it makes you happy. You wouldn’t be happy without challenges in life, despite what you might believe.

    I can’t believe you’ve seen people get killed on the job! That must be intense…

  11. There is a strange thing about stress. I can work under heavy pressure, I can survive different problems, I am quite adequate and calm and I don’t feel any stress at all… unless someone comes and says – oh, my, how do you live, if I were you I would already die if I had such a stress?! And then – BUM! – I feel a burden on my shoulders and feel stressed:)) So, no stress exists until you take it:)

  12. Well, everyday we need to face a lot of unexpected stress. If you don’t want the stress become the invisible killer to you, then you should learn how to release the stress away by the right methods…

    By the way, nice and informative post, Chris.

  13. Stress plays a major role in the well-being of your body and mind.

  14. sometime i stress :) but its okay, part of my life :)

  15. stress, stress, stress my life is stress :(

  16. There`s nothing more stressful than my own stress. :D
    Usually I am stressed a lot after working long hard hours in front of the same LCD screen, but I have learned that we all need a break now and then.

  17. Stress is part of our life. It’s true that without it then our life would be boring.

  18. A stress free life is not always a boring life. I had a pretty stressful life in college and then I started my own ad agency working at my own pace, stress free. I can tell you I’m a lot happier without the stress.

  19. No Stress More Stressful than Lots of Stress is weird!

  20. In fact, too little stress is as harmful to our health as too much: http://stresstopower.com/blog/optimizing-stress/ . I find the thought and the graph comforting.

  21. There is no such thing as good stress. Worry is the big component of stress. Eliminate worry from your life and you eliminate stress. Yes, I knot it is impossible to eliminate all worry, but you can get rid of a good percentage of it. It is not as hard as you think.

  22. IMO, stress can be good or bad depending on how you react to it. More often than not though, I’ve found that stress comes from running into a situation that you knew you should have been preparing for but didn’t. Other times, it is because in the back of your mind, you know you have your head in the sand and the situation is coming.

  23. Stress from physical danger is certainly hard….i’m a 3 time cancer survivor and my outlook on life has been changed forever. In some regards I don’t stress as much anymore.

  24. Stress can do funny things to you physically. About ten years ago, I was having really bad, dull joint pain. speciallyt in my hips. Getting in and out of the car was quite a chore. I went to my doctor…then to rheumatologists and specialists. They tested everything from arthritis to lupus. They had no idea what was causing this very real pain. Arthritis probably (although I was only 26 at the time). So what was the cure? I took a seven day vacation to Cancun. And when I came back the pain was gone. Who figured! Since then, my joints have become a signalling agent for stress. I now know when I start feeling that pain again, it’s time to do something to relax.

  25. I can relate to stress…Everything that worries me in life puts me in stress mode. They have meds that can ‘help’ relieve your stress so they say but nothing helps me unless I either sleep it off or just try not to think about my issues.

  26. In true Darwinian fashion, stress can be a great motivator. Although the constant release of the cortisol and the rest of the hormones that cause you to feel like that will eventually age you and/or give you cancer… in small doses it can be used as a great tool. It seems as though you have a healthy view of it…

    David J. Parnell

  27. What I tend to do is make a list of my stress than I try to see if I can true to solve that problem, the less on the list = the less stress.

  28. Lol I like the relationship between rhino and stress.. Just as heavy..

  29. It’s so true, though. I like to rate my life in terms of “good stress” and “bad stress.” For me, good stress is anything that’s challenging, but gives me that supercharged feeling (like, say, rollerblading down the highway, or flying all over the country to visit friends and discover new places). Bad stress can be something as simple as boredom or spending time with people who drain me.

    Chris, I say if high-intensity activities keep you engaged, that’s “good stress” and well worth having. ;-)

  30. Just one quote from me about this:

    Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started.
    David Allen

  31. Andrew Cunningham says:

    This was helpful, thanks. I’ve been learning the “low intensity” thing myself. Sort of odd that doing too little could stress someone out, but there it is. And exercising does seem to help, I agree. That encourages me to keep it up :)

    Enjoying reading. Thanks again.


  32. Working out it key, and so is nutrition. I’ve found the paleo diet to be the best at keeping stress low. You should take a look a that one :-)

  33. I don’t believe in those people who consider stress as the part of the life. As stress is not natural. Its unnatural and we consider it natural. Its up to us to take stress or not to take. Meditation helps a lot to reduce the stress in day to day life.

  34. To me stress is anything that shapes realities true shape or form. I find that stress will make me see things in a totally different light, a much more harsh light. I try NOT to let things bother me and I do well with it but the fact of the matter is that I’m human and no matter how rock solid I try to be I am porous and stress finds its way in.

    To battle stress I like to sit down with a good book, a glass of ice tea and shredded chocolate. I actually take a bar of chocolate and a cheese grader and make small slivers of chocolate. I place it on my tongue and just let it melt as I take in a good book. That’s how I relax anyway and if I feel stress coming on I stop whatever I’m doing and relax. Strange? Probably, but it does me wonders.

  35. I like stress. I perform better and can get much more accomplished when under stress. Without a little stress, nothing gets done.

  36. I agree that stress is unavoidable. There is positive stress and negative stress. Our job should be to identify the negative stress and to minimize it as much as possible, because negative stress can take a toll upon us psychologically and physically. Positive stress is good because it prevents us from boredom. Positive stress challenges us and pushes us to want to win and overcome. Thanks for the great article!

  37. Stress has been identified as a major contributor to disease. I have seen people under prolonged stress suddenly develop a serious illness.

    As long as we are on this earth, we will experience events that we perceive as good or bad. If we focus on the negative and let our thoughts and emotions go there, we impacting our quality of life and inviting in illness.

    The key is to manage and control stress rather than have it control our lives.

    I agree that exercise is a great tool in managing stress.

    Good information. Thank you.

  38. I had to learn not to stress in order to lose any weight and get my health better.

  39. Stress can make you vulnerable for many diseases such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes and even mental illness. To prevent this you must relax, workout and always think positive.

  40. The cure to battling stress for me is:

    Organise your life. Make lists if what you need to do. If you are very busy and feel your life is out of control it is very stressful. Get a focus in what you need to do and prioritise. It is very stress revealing.

    Exercise! You may be incredibly busy but find 20 mins to go jogging or do some sit ups or play football with your kids. The endorphins will kill stress!

    Diet. Follow a healthy diet such as the caveman diet

    Enjoy life! What doesnt kill you makes you stronger.


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