Stress Out or Not–Your ChoicePosted: January 25, 2013
Today is a beautiful day in the Napa valley. The sun is out, the rain is over, the air is clean, and we are breaking 70 degrees. I am in short sleeves for the first time in weeks. It really is a perfect Northern California January day. Even during cold spells, which we have had a lot of lately, I always consider myself lucky to live here. So I was quite surprised to hear people make themselves miserable today. Perhaps I should explain.
During lunch I ran an errand up to my HMO pharmacy to pick up a couple of prescriptions. Nothing major, just a regular thing for me. I had re-ordered them online, and had gotten a call that they were ready so it seemed like a good idea to pick them up. When I got there, after waiting in line to get to the counter, I found out that only one of the prescriptions had been filled. No particular reason–it just didn’t get done. The woman helping me was apologetic and asked if I would like to wait if they could rush it. Although it was inconvenient, it was just one of those things so I took a seat to wait for my name–again.
I was sitting near the entrance to the pharmacy, so I couldn’t help but hear people as they queued up behind my chair. As I sat, I was amazed at the reaction as people entered the pharmacy on a Friday afternoon. The line was actually not too long, maybe ten people at a time. But as each person came to pick up their prescription it seemed as though they were surprised that anyone else needed to do the same thing that they did. I heard more than one expletive, and several conversations about how poorly the pharmacy was run. As these people talked, they seemed to feed on the negative energy, making the wait balloon into one of worst things that could possibly be happening in their lives. The rising stress levels in the line were almost palpable.
Now, I have to say that people are not usually at their best when in a pharmacy. They are probably there because they are ill and less than their best. However, in today’s world standing in line to buy anything is not really a surprise. And getting angry about having to do it is neither productive nor healthy. I couldn’t help but think that this was a classic example of choice and picking your battles.
When we are faced with situations that are unpleasant we have to make a decision. Can we do something about it, or is the situation out of our control? And if it is out of our control, how do we choose to react to it? These are fundamental questions but our world moves at warp speed these days and we don’t always have time to think about them. The result is a lot of frustration and unnecessary stress.
In this example, the situation is out of our control but we do have a choice in our reaction. We can wait or we can come back later. Both are probably inconvenient, but getting angry about the inconvenience will only make us feel worse. Perhaps a better way of dealing with the situation is to make a choice and take responsibility for it. Wait or come back–our choice. Getting angry and blaming the pharmacy, or worse the person behind the counter, will not change anything. It will only raise blood pressure and most likely put a damper on the rest of the afternoon. And that doesn’t seem like the best choice to me.
I’m not naive. I know people are busy, and most are over-scheduled. But letting situations over which you have no control upset you will do nothing but stress you out unnecessarily. I know this because I used to be the first to stress out if I had to wait for something. I was busy, tired, and certainly didn’t have time to stand around and wait–I had a schedule to keep. That was several years ago in my corporate life.
Flash forward to now. I’m still busy (although I sleep better these days so I’m not really tired much), and don’t really have time to wait around for something. I still have a schedule. But I have a different perspective now. Indignation caused by inconvenience does no one any good. I know that I can’t control everything and I take responsibility for my reactions. By doing so, I still get my prescriptions, although it took a bit longer than expected. The world did not end because I had to wait. I also get a beautiful sunny afternoon, smiling conversations with people behind the counter, and the ability to let the inconvenience go and get on with my day. Because of it I have a lot more energy, a lot less stress, and a lot more enjoyment of my day.
Seems like the better choice to me.
How do you deal with inconvenience? Do you let it stress you out or does your reaction let you enjoy your day?