The Truth About Stress

By Lain Ehmann

Everywhere you turn it seems one more expert is telling you how to get a handle on your stress level. But is stress as bad as it’s made out to be? And can you really rid yourself of anxiety and tension? Here, William Atkinson, author of Eliminate Stress from Your Life Forever (AMACOM, 2004), weighs in with his opinions on some popular stress beliefs and how stress works to enhance – or disable – your on-the-job performance.

Myth #1: I know, I know, all stress is bad. While chronic stress can be responsible for a host of undesirable physiological results, including headaches, heart attacks, and hampering your immune system, not all stress is negative. There is positive stress, such as the type that can give a runner the extra boost needed to make it to the finish line. The key, says Watkinson, is to know yourself and your limits. Is a little anxiety going to help you perform better in a presentation or help you meet your deadline for your monthly report, or is the stress going to make you tongue-tied and shut you down? If it enhances your performance, then it’s not bad.

Myth #2: I’m just Type A and can’t change the way I am. While some people naturally may be more excitable than others, any personality type can manage their response to stress, says Atkinson. He says stress is a perception, not a fact of life. By changing your assessment of the situation, you can change how your mind and body respond to stimuli. Look at your beliefs about the situation and see if a few small adjustments can reduce your stress level. For example: The customer’s just looking out for her interests, she’s not out to get me.

Myth #3: I’m not in control a lot of the time, so I don’t have a choice – I get stressed! A salesperson’s position often is between a rock and a hard place as customers push one way and the factory pushes the other. You probably can’t do much about delays in shipping or demands from clients who want lower prices, but Atkinson again suggests looking at your perceptions. You can’t control the entire situation, but there are aspects that are entirely in your court. You can choose how you present information to your customers and how you handle their requests. Also, you can always control your own reactions. “Lack of control in the situation is a reality. Whether you get stressed by it is a choice,” he says.

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