How to keep stress from making you crazy

Gannett News
Sunday, June 8, 2003

By Anita Bruzzese

We are in a theater, watching a movie. A woman is at her desk, trying to complete the last tasks she needs to get done before the weekend. It’s almost 5 p.m. and she has big plans with friends once she gets off work. She’s looking forward to a camping trip that’s been planned for months.

Suddenly, a stack of files lands on her desk with a smack. Her boss stands next to her and announces he needs the files updated by Monday morning. With hardly a nod in her direction, he picks up his briefcase and walks out the door.

The woman looks with dread at the files, knowing that she’ll have to work all weekend to get the updates done. As we watch the scene unfold, we have sympathy for the woman. What a rotten thing to do, we think. That boss is scum. The woman should quit, or at least start looking for another job.

But when we leave the theater, our hearts are not thumping, our heads are not pounding, we haven’t begun shaking with emotion. After all, that woman’s situation is not our own, and we’re more concerned about where to get an after-movie latte.

But let’s rewind. Let’s imagine that what happened to that woman actually happened to us. Now let’s consider how we really feel. In one word: stressed.

That’s because our perception of the situation has changed, says David Gamow, the founder of Clarity Seminars in Mountain View, California.

“When you become personally and emotionally involved in a situation, that’s stress. It’s all about you,” Gamow says. “Stress is the gap between what the situation is and what you want it to be.”

Gamow says his training focuses on teaching “how to work with your mind.” In other words, he helps people understand how their own perceptions of a situation lead to stress.

“Stress is like barnacles on a ship,” he says. “What I try to teach is how to build a ship that barnacles won’t stick to.”

It’s estimated that stress-related ailments cost corporate America an estimated $200 billion to $300 billion a year, and some believe that stress in the world today is worse that it has ever been.

But hold on a minute, Gamow says.

“Every generation believes that their stress is the worst. Consider World War II. Or what about pioneers trying to make it on the frontier?” he says. “Yes, things do move faster today and we attach a lot of feelings to that, but we’ve got to realize that stress is 100-percent human.”

He says that we must learn there are an infinite number of things we don’t have control over in our lives, but Gamow’s response is “so what?”

“Of course we’re out of control, but so were the pioneers. The point is, you don’t have to let it drive you crazy. If it’s driving you crazy, that’s your problem. It’s very easy to blame someone else for your stress,” he says.

Gamow trains employees to understand that while the physical reality at work may not change, their perceptions can. Along with teaching meditation and other relaxation techniques, Gamow says that employees can train their minds to cut through stress and see situations more clearly to make them more effective on the job.

“Everyone can get better at handling stress by stepping outside themselves. I’m not talking about becoming cold emotionally, but by looking at your life as if it were a movie,” he says.

If you’re interested in more information on stress, consider the American Institute of Stress in Yonkers, N.Y. Or, contact Gamow at 650-917-1186 or

Anita Bruzzese is author of “Take This Job and Thrive,” (Impact Publications). Write to her c/o: Business Editor, Gannett News Service, 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, Va. 22107.

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