Stress is talked about in various ways. A lot is discussed about how it manifests and the way in which it impacts our relationships and work. Most of those who talk about stress view it in the context of the self and what the individual himself can do in order to take care of the negative impact that it has. Most individuals also tend to look at shifting the focus from the external on to the internal and discuss what is termed as having an internal locus of control.

What I do feel is that the external environment, despite the efforts we try and exert upon our own selves to change or work on our thoughts and feelings, tends to have a significant impact. It is a key aspect that without fail affects us, our moods, our sense of control, our confidence in what can be and how we eventually end up dealing with people and situations.

Let us look at what this external world is comprised of.

  • Our families, including our parents, spouses, in-laws, children, grandparents, and other extended family members are one significant part.
  • Our colleagues if we are in a occupied in a work space form another significant part.
  • Our neighbors and other people who reside in the community we are a part of are another aspect.
  • Our friends and confidantes contribute as well to this external world that is created around us.
  • The larger community and society which exerts pressure in more insidious forms is another arm of this.
  • The changes in the world also contribute, particularly on account of the shrinking of the world due to greater access on account of technology.

There are varied aspects which are associated with the external world which can be difficult to handle and cope with and which affect us in ways that seem rather uncontrollable. The challenge that external circumstances pose arise on account of the following factors.

    • The unpredictability with which things can unfold and people can react tend to make it difficult to cope with situations. Not being able to predict in advance the others’ reaction or the response from a group of people or the twists and turns a situation could potentially undertake can result in a lot of stress and anxiety for a person.
    • Frequently it is also the knowledge of not having adequate sources to control a situation which make it difficult to cope with a situation. The more the control seems to be outside of our individual control the more it can create stress for us.
    • The feeling of a lack of knowledge when outside sources are intervening in how a situation would unfold make it even more difficult to cope with the situation. It makes it difficult to be able to think of the various ways in which there could be an impact and in developing potential solutions in anticipation to cope with it, which exacerbates the stress which may be experienced.
    • It is also our own internalized sense of what is ok and what is not, what is acceptable and what is not which also tend to interfere with our perception of whether we would be able to cope with a prevailing situation and how much stress we would experience on account of it.
    • Finally, our understanding and perception of social norms can be aspects which also increase our stress on account of not feeling that we would be accepted and are thoughts and feelings valued. Being different can be very difficult and undertaking a different course of action can bring with a lot of stress.

So what does one do when such a situation is prevalent? It is not that we can run away from these situations or avoid them in any which way. We all have to face them and find ways in which we can better negotiate with them. Some of the things which one should keep in mind include the following.

      • Have a good understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses. Know what you can and cannot do which would allow you to create effective and innovative solutions as and when required. It would also enable you to seek support when you are aware of what you would need help with.
      • Develop a greater sense of trust and belief in your own self. This is probably the one factor that goes beyond most in ensuring that you achieve success. Trusting yourself would provide you with the confidence to tide through circumstances that you would never thought you would be able to.
      • Think beyond the obvious. Learn to develop multiple plans in the face of difficult situations. When you have a plan A, B, C, D and E, you would always be prepared to think out of the box and develop something which is a dynamic solution.
      • Brainstorm and seek support as and when required. You would be able to better find solutions to your stressors when you discuss it with others. Also when there is no solution then having the support of others can help one cope better as one feels understood and accepted.
      • Learn to be ok with not having solutions to situations. Not everything can be solved and ambiguity is a part of life.
      • Understand that change is the only constant and when in the face of a stressful situation which seems to be out of your control then remember that this too shall change.
      • Bring yourself back to what you have and can do each time you feel bogged down by a situation. It would help you feel a sense of positivity about your life and yourself.

Life has its challenges and would bring with it numerous situations which seem unfathomable and difficult to handle. But remember that is true for everyone and there would always be some way in which a situation can either be resolved or moved beyond after a period of time. It would have its impact, yes but it would also make you more resilient over time.