Provision #618: Stressful Reactions

Laser Provision

You may not have suffered a lot of stressful events in the past year, and you may not be manifesting a lot of physical, stress-induced symptoms, but there is another way to get a handle on your stress level: how irritable and demanding are you with other people. The more stress we are under, the more reactive we tend to be. If you’re not sure how you rate in terms of annoyances, then this Provision will put things into perspective. It includes a survey of 50 things that tend to annoy people. It will be interesting to see what you discover.

LifeTrek Provision

How much do things bug you? There are lots of ways to assess how much stress we are experiencing in life and work, and the how-much-does-it-bug-you question offers one more important vantage point. The more stress we are under, the more reactive we tend to be. Consider the following situations and ask yourself a simple “Yes” or “No” question about each one: “Does this situation annoy me?” After marking each item, count your total number of “Yes’s” and “No’s”.


1. A person telling me how to drive.
2. A person acting in an affected manner.
3. Getting a telephone busy signal.
4. To see reckless driving.
5. To hear a loud talker.
6. To see an adult picking his or her nose.
7. A person telling me to do something when I am just about to do it.
8. A person continually criticizing something.
9. A person being sarcastic.
10. To wait for someone to come to the phone.
11. To know a person is staring at me.
12. To have my thoughts interrupted.
13. A person putting his or her hands on me unnecessarily.
14. A person adjusting my TV set.
15. A person giving me a weak handshake.
16. A person picking his or her teeth.
17. A person who “can’t leave the party.”
18. A person continually trying to be funny.
19. Being asked almost constantly to do something.
20. To be evaluated critically by a relative stranger.
21. To hear a person use “shock” words.
22. To have to walk on slippery sidewalks.
23. To listen to politicians make promises.
24. To hear a person talking during a musical number.
25. To hear loud music.
26. To be unable to find a bus seat.
27. A person watching me work.
28. To hear a person swear.
29. To see demonstrations of affection between members of the same sex.
30. To hear disparaging remarks about a member of a minority group.
31. A man frequently referring to his girlfriends.
32. A woman frequently referring to her boyfriends.
33. Too much discussion of sex.
34. To have to kiss an unattractive relative.
35. To see demonstrations of affection between members of the opposite sex.
36. A person talking a great deal and not saying anything very important.
37. To listen to a sales pitch.
38. To have to watch too many TV commercials.
39. A person interrupting me when I am talking.
40. To see a person spit.
41. To have a hostess repeatedly urging me to take some food I do not want.
42. Not being able to find the rattle in the car.
43. To discover that a library book is not there at the library.
44. To see colors that clash.
45. To see an untidy room.
46. To find hair in my food.
47. To find a hole in my sock or pantyhose.
48. The classmate who talks too much.
49. Not to be listened to.
50. To be given impractical suggestions.

So how many did you come up with? How many things bug you from the above list of 50 situations? This assessment, based on a similar test in the 1973 book, Psychology, by B. Von Haller Gilner, identifies three levels of stress:

  • 0-10 “Yes’s” suggest a Mild amount of stress
  • 11-24 “Yes’s” suggest a Moderate amount of stress
  • 25-50 “Yes’s” suggest a Significant amount of stress

As with all stress assessments, the more stress you are under, the more of a toll stress is taking on your health, happiness, and success in life and work. That’s especially true when it comes to annoyances since they take a toll not only on yourself but also on those who are annoying you. We have, perhaps, all had the experience of getting bugged by someone smacking their gum, chewing with their mouth open, or crunching an apple or potato chips in our presence. Chomp, chomp, chomp. We try to ignore it as long as we can, but then what happens? We make the request that they stop crunching.

But it’s usually not a request. When we are annoyed, we come across as irritated and our requests come across as demands. We may be able to get away with that in our families, where people have learned to overlook our more obnoxious traits, but once we get out in public our irritability and demands take a heavy toll. They actually make it less, rather than more, likely that our needs will be met. As a result, we end up in vicious cycle. The more irritable and demanding we become, the less our needs get met; the less our needs get met, the more irritable and demanding we become.

Stop the world, I want to get off! We live in a time when irritability and exigency have reached epic proportions. Stress generates more stress as people struggle to get their needs met. In future Provisions we’ll talk more about how to get off the treadmill, but for now I invite you to increase your awareness of the phenomena both in your own life and in the lives of others. When do you notice the most amount of irritability and exigency? When do you notice the least? How can you receive both situations as gifts, from which you can learn and grow?

Therein lies the first step in the process of stress reduction. Awareness precedes action. Mindful awareness, which is awareness without judgment, precedes effective action. Perhaps you have heard the story of an older man teaching a younger man how to play golf. After working on the mechanics, the younger man points out that his mind gets in the way of his game. He has a hard time focusing and clearing his mind, especially as he swings through the ball. “What do you think about?” he asks the older, “Do you have any secret formula?”

The older man said he would demonstrate his method so he stepped up to the ball and on his backswing he began to say out loud, “Son … of … a …” until he came crashing back through the ball with the word, “bitch!!!” “That’s what I say to myself,” he told the younger man, “with every shot.” That’s one way to focus, to approach every shot with a son-of-a-bitch mentality, but it fails to generate mastery in both golf and life. It rather generates stress and the very opposite of the calm-alert energy that mastery requires.

So notice the next time you find yourself and/or others becoming irritable or demanding. What are the dynamics? The more we notice, the more chance we have to change.

Coaching Inquiries: What do you say when you talk to yourself? How can you focus without agitated-stress energy? How can you reduce the number of annoyances in your life? What things can you change and what things can you accept? How might you gain the wisdom to know the difference?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation. To learn more about LifeTrek Coaching programs, Click Here.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..

I like your recent Provisions on stress, but I must add a word of caution about the list of symptoms in today’s Provision, Stressful Symptoms. While psychological stress can certainly cause those symptoms in many individuals, there are many other explanations for several, if not most, of the symptoms on the list. These symptoms could arise from underlying medical or psychiatric conditions that should be checked out by a qualified health care professional. In such cases a coaching relationship aimed at overcoming stress, however useful in most circumstances, might not be enough to address the problem.

Just wanted to tell you that I and my fianc• (for different reasons, and in-common ones) have both needed this series of emails! Thank you for providing this service! I signed up for your email list more than seven years ago after attending one of your presentations. There have been times I have thought about unsubscribing, but then an email will come out that I needed at that moment. Thanks.

I wanted to thank you for your series on human needs. I found them helpful, and forwarded many to family and friends.

Thanks for mentioning the situation here in Santa Barbara in one of your recent Provision,Stressful Events. The fire initially started on Tuesday afternoon and things were touch and go but not too crazy until a wall of flame came roaring across the mountain above Santa Barbara out toward Goleta Thursday night. The fire was right up against the edge of major neighborhoods and the city, but ran sideways across the hill instead of down as would typically be expected with these sundowner wind conditions. They were adding huge swaths of neighborhoods to the evacuation zones to include 30,000 of the approx 100,000 local residents. The mandatory evacuation zone was less than 1 mile from our home at midnight and if the winds had kicked up and came downhill toward the city it could have been tragic. There could have been a five mile wide wall of flame washing down through the city to the ocean. Instead the wind shifted and “only” 30 homes were destroyed and 11 firefighters injured. My family did a voluntary evacuation Friday morning to my parents’ place about 40 miles to the South. Just got back today to a yard covered in ash, but no worse for wear. Whew!

Glad to hear you are tweeting! I noticed that your tweets are often written very early in the day. Wish I had so much energy at such hours.

On your Twitter page you said, “Nothing anyone ever does is wrong.” You said, rather, that people do things that are “more or less tragic”. I think “tragic” is an adult concept that wouldn’t work well with children. And I think talking to children of meeting your or my needs starts a kind of calculating that we don’t want children to do. It is too open to wishful thinking about whose needs would get met.

And how easy is it to predict such things anyway? E.g., If I want to hit Johnny because I am mad at him, it seems to meet my needs for revenge, and who cares whether it meets his needs? Or perhaps: he needs a good lesson anyway! It seems much more productive to set off certain kinds of things as wrong. I agree that calling someone bad or their actions wrong can sometimes be alienating to them. But that shows that you need to be careful how you express yourself, and it does not show that the underlying concepts are somehow defective.

So perhaps you did mean to say that “Nothing anyone ever does is wrong.” Perhaps you meant to say that: “It is rarely productive to call what anyone (any adult) does ‘wrong’.” If you mean the latter, you shouldn’t express it by saying the former (dare I say: “that would be wrong”). (Ed. Note: I am attending a training this week on the Living Energy of Needs. I will know more upon my return, but for now I am confident that there is no such thing as a “need” for revenge. Revenge is a strategy to meet other needs, and not a very good strategy, so we have to get to the heart of the matter. More later.)

Thank you for the complimentary coaching session I had with Erika. She was wonderful!! I totally “enjoyed” her amazing listening skills as well as her prompts to go inside of myself. I know she and I would work very well together, once I get the funds together.

I continue to enjoy your weekly Provisions! I am thinking about becoming a certified wellness Coach. In the past few years, I have become an AAFA certified Personal Fitness Trainer. And last year I became a certified Zumba Gold instructor. Although I continue to work in another field, I am interested in health and wellness and I see myself moving in that direction. When I saw the information about becoming a wellness coach in your Provision and I looked at Wellcoaches site. Will follow up. Thanks. 

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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