Last week I was watching some video clips with my now 10 year old of him as a toddler. He was fascinated to see himself so small, acting silly and unable to talk properly. I was too. Until I realised the video was being filmed by my older son which meant I was in the background. And this was a supremely uncomfortable experience for me because I could just about make out what I was talking about. I was talking about the work challenges I was facing which were clearly vexing me at that time to the extent I wasn’t paying attention to my kids who were putting on quite a show for us. I was relating to a polite but incredibly bored group of relatives my current woes and who said what to whom and what I was going to have to do next week because of their nonsense.
I forced myself to listen to this and really focussed on trying to make out what I was saying. I was stressed out, anxious and presumably hoping that talking it through with my close family would help. Which is probably the right thing to do. And I could make out my face in the background of this poor quality video pinched with anxiety and tense. I look unhealthy and not at all well.
And here’s the thing. Even when I listened closely to what I was saying, I have absolutely no recollection of the events that had caused me to be so stressed.. My work world at the time that had made me ignore my kids, bore everyone around me and yet the events clearly resolved themselves in some way or other because there were obviously no long term consequences that I can recall. Apart to my health I guess and … well it wasn’t a happy experience to watch it.
And as I re-read the last paragraph, I noticed something else: “My work world at the time that had made me…”. This of course isn’t true. I had options. I could have worked out a way of resolving the issues or relieving the pressure. Work hadn’t made me do it. I had. Yes there were pressures because all jobs have them. It is how we respond to them that makes them manageable. Or not. Sometimes there will be insurmountable problems at work – the worst of these usually stem from your relationships with the people you interact with most frequently. And yet I can now see that when in the midst of these problems they will inevitably seem far worse than they really are. But my saying this won’t help them go away because writing this hasn’t stopped me from reacting less than perfectly to difficult work relationships.
Perhaps I should think about this example more often. What would an apparently overwhelmingly attacking set of circumstances look like in 6 months or a year or 5 years? It’s quite likely that even in a few days issues are resolved and forgotten. Somehow we have to find a way to have confidence that things will be all right and that you and your colleagues will work your way through whatever has been thrown at you. And if you don’t? Well, in that highly unlikely event you’ll then have to work out what to do. Think about it. When you look back, how many times have you been in situations that worried you and that you couldn’t see a way out? And how many times did it work out OK? I guarantee it is usually nowhere near as bad as you feared and most of the time, it all works out fine. So, when you get stressed, try to remember those times you managed to find a way through. And reassure yourself that this is another of those times.