Argh I'm gonna be late!
I was driving to ICE yesterday morning for a day mentoring the Implant MSc students and I looked down at the satnav and saw that when I was supposed to arrive at 9 o'clock I was going to arrive at five past with a big red line of traffic in front of me. I hate being late. I’m never (very rarely) late to work.
My default response to this used to be to get really worked up and stressed. I'd sit stewing in my car, getting frustrated with everybody weaving in and out of lanes and that driver in front who isn’t accelerating as quickly as they could do (despite knowing they were about to stop behind the car in front in roughly five seconds time).
I would be stressing about the consequences of being late, how I pride myself on being punctual and that I would let everybody down by not being on time. How embarrassing especially when I am supposed to be mentoring, I’m supposed to be leading by example! I would catastrophise the consequences of my tardiness which only served to get me more stressed.
Of course is that stressing about being late doesn’t get me to work any quicker, if anything I get there even later because I will make bad decisions, overruling the satnav about what the best way to get to work is, to try and avoid the traffic.
And stress is really tiring! All that extra adrenaline is pushing our cells into overdrive, burning up all the available glucose, sapping our energy so we’re running on empty before the day’s even got going.
Stressing about situations that are out of our control never helps. I’ve done everything in my power to mitigate potential problems, such as giving myself enough time for a normal journey with an allowance for the usual traffic. I can’t do any more right now to change the situation so I want to just keep myself in the best possible mindset to be as effective as I can when I get there.
We can’t always choose the stresses we face, but as Stephen Covey taught us, taking responsibility means having the ability to choose our own response. We can choose to let ourselves get stressed about something beyond our control but it's not going to help the situation. Or, we can let it go, do so some mindful breathing and focus our energies on making the best of the situation when we can do something about it again.