Person under crumpled pile of papers with hand holding a help si

Do you feel yanked around by your work, your life, or both? Does the mountain (the pile), in front of you seem insurmountable? Does your list of “to do’s” choke and marginalize what you have already accomplished? Do you feel overwhelmed?

Stress is unavoidable. But we can complicate the problem. We get involved in exacerbating it. Actually, when it comes to exacerbating stress, nothing has changed since ancient times. Even King David over 3000 years ago said, My anxious thoughts multiply within me. In other words, we escalate our stresses.

The term “stresscalation”, sums up this exponential component of stress very well. It’s downright combustible! The nursing industry came up with this term in 1992 to describe the stress nurses were feeling and how they made it worse. Stress begets stress. We set ourselves up for higher levels of pressure. We involve ourselves in thoughts and behaviors that exacerbate it.

There have been a multitude of articles on stress. They range from how you recognize it, to prevention techniques, to using it skillfully and advantageously, to how it can be relieved. Yet it’s easy to look for solutions and continue to fall prey to its menacing effects.

Now it’s helpful to know what to do. But the counterproductive things we usually do get in the way of the productive things we should do. Here’s how to deal with stress via negativa — by eliminating the negative.

So if you want to increase your stress here are 9 ways to do it.

  1. Think negatively. This is particularly effective, especially if you make it personally about yourself.
  2. Isolate and amplify that thought when something bad happens,. Don’t let any positive thoughts interrupt your catastrophic mindset.
  3. When worrying, stop your simulated thinking at the point of greatest dire impact. After all, worry is like a movie. So make sure you stop the movie before it’s finished. This will help you keep the dread and anxiety at the optimum level.
  4. Live in the future. We are the only animal on earth that can experience the future before it arrives. It’s like a built-in flight simulator. We can experience ourselves crashing over and over again, even though it hasn’t really happened. Forget about “now”. After all, “now” will soon be “then”. So live in the future because it is yet to come. Brilliant!!!
  5. Promote GMC Behavior (Gripe, Moan and Complain). Actually our research has found that the louder and longer, the better.
  6. Procrastinate. Why do now what you could do tomorrow? Postpone working on that project, paper, or problem. After all, you might miss the thrill of an overtime sudden death finale! You’ll be forfeiting that heart-pumping, brain-racing, anxiety-level feeling. Why miss that thrill?
  7. Eliminate Margin. When leaving for an appointment, make sure that the exact time you leave is the exact time you’re suppose to arrive. This is particularly a great technique for stresscalation. The lack of margin is the gasoline on the fire.
  8. Get anxious. When you miss the deadline, make sure you panic. Being a non-anxious presence won’t help you multiply the stress. We suggest you panic. It is particularly helpful to start screaming and moaning, getting angry with others and finding someone else to blame. Blame is a great tool for pain-redistribution. Tantrums and scapegoating are particularly rewarding.

One more and we’re through!

  1. Hang onto slights and irritability. Keep feeding them, growing them, and holding them close to your heart. To escalate them is to multiply them, and that will keep your stress level growing.

Now that you recognize how to multiply your stresses, you can choose your behavior.

I have found it to be helpful to extrapolate current behaviors into the future. It shows what will happen if present behavior isn’t altered.

And that is a good deterrent.

What stresses you, and how do you deal with it? We want to hear from you. 🙂

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4 Responses
  1. Dawn

    Just wanted to let you know I loved the article about what NOT to do when you are overwhelmed. It made me smile and then it made me think. I love that you put it in the what NOT to do format because a. it pointed out the ridiculousness of the behavior I sometimes employ and b. it persuaded me to take a look at what I COULD do instead. I took your list and typed up the corresponding list of what TO do when I am overwhelmed. Very helpful exercise! Just wanted to thank you again for what you do. Your articles often rank among my favorites and have added a lot of value to me. Have a great day!

  2. Debra


    My boyfriend sent this to me while I was dealing with many stressful situations. As I read your thoughts I smiled and wondered how you (and he) had hit upon so many of my behaviors! Behaviors that I have gotten away with forever (unknowingly, of course!)

    Thank you for the smile and wake up call!

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