Now I sometimes find myself referring to these stories in my life. Well, not so much Jason and the Argonauts because my life isn’t quite that exciting, but more like Sisyphus, who is forced to roll that stone up the hill only to have it rolling back down again (sounds familiar?), and of course, Atlas.
Who is Atlas you ask?
And do you care?
Well, if you care about understanding stress (and even if you don’t), I think you should care about Atlas, even just a little.
Atlas was a Titan, a God, who led the Titans in a rebellion against Zeus. That obviously didn’t end well (short version), and he was condemned to bear the heavens on his shoulders. That is quite a load.
Another version is that he carries the world on his shoulders. Which in turn is where the phrase, ‘carrying the world on your shoulders’ comes from.
Maybe it doesn’t look like Greek Mythology and modern day stress have a lot in common at first glance, but if you look closer; you will be reminded that myths were used a lot for educational purposes. And with the phrase ‘carrying the world on his shoulders’ you get an inkling about what Greek Mythology and stress has to do with each other. Also, this is what we look like when we’re under stress. Hunched shoulders, bent over, our head forced down…
The more I read about stress, and the more I learn about my own journey (struggle, battle, war, take your pick) with stress and overwhelm, the more I see that stress is all about the perception of the load we carry. Perception as in our understanding of an issue.
This is then why a simple deadline can make one person thrive, while someone else might fall apart. Their anxiousness is due to their perception of the pressure the deadline. They simply cannot cope.
It is important to understand that the stress is always real to us and this is also why some people seem to deal with an issue so easily, while another person might fall apart.
In the results of a ‘skillsoft’ study of 3000 people, the top 5 work stresses are:
- Feeling undervalued
- Type of work people have to do
- Having to take on other people's work
Sounds familiar? Just a normal workday, right… There might not be too much you can do to change your workload, or the deadlines, but there are ways that you can change the perception of your load.
- Know your limits.
Look at patterns in your life and try to spot situations that made you feel stressed, patterns that seems to repeat themselves. Knowing yourself is always the first step in understanding any issues that arise in our lives.
Are you trying so hard to please the boss or co-workers, that you automatically say yes to anything? A can-do’ attitude is hopefully noted, but be honest about it, at least with yourself. Remember, you’re the only one who is in control of your life, you have to take responsibility and be accountable every time you say yes. You can’t blame anyone else if you said yes all the time, because, well, you offered.
2.You can’t change other people, only how you react to them.
Break down what others are saying into what you’re actually hearing. Something is hitting a nerve within you. Is it your beliefs about yourself that is being challenged? Also, some people are just so different to us, we will just find them annoying. And this brings me to my last point…
3) Walk away.
Go for a walk. Get some physical distance between you and the ‘problem’. Get in a different space, a different environment (different planet even?)
“If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders - What would you tell him?"
I…don't know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?"
― Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged