There are many misunderstandings about the causes of stress. One of the main ones, is the idea that it’s the situation you’re in that is “stressful”.
You might hear people talking about how stressful they find certain things:
“Christmas with my family is so stressful!”
“It is super-stressful when my boss attends our team meetings”
“Flying on planes with the kids is so stressful”
Actually, there’s no such thing as a stressful situation. Of course, situations can be demanding and challenging. We may be in situations that we’d prefer not to experience.
And it’s not the situation that determines whether someone gets stressed or not.
Two people may experience the same situation. One person gets stressed. The other person does not.
What determines whether we gain stress is not the stressor, but the way we respondto the stressor.
Let’s use the Christmas example. It’s a situation that requires you to interact and adapt to a number of demands. Maybe you have to eat food you don’t like so as not to offend. Perhaps you have to make small talk with a relative with whom you have very little in common.
These are demands that require you to adapt. If you’re not able to respond in an appropriate way, you get stressed. So how do you increase your adaptability?
The key lies in getting more of what we call Adaptation Energy.
Adaptation Energy (AE) acts as a buffer between you and the demand. Think of it like a bank balance. When your balance of AE is high, you have an abundance of energy to draw down upon. If your AE balance is overdrawn, you’re running low on adaptability. Then when faced with the demand, you end up maladapting and gaining stress.