In preparation for being part of a group I hope to work with, I underwent a behavioral interview this week. This is very different from the interview a normal job or school application involves. A behavioral interview focuses on such things as how you deal with people, how you handle situations you dislike, what excites and energizes you, and how you handle stress.

How DO you handle stress?

That’s a good question. When I feel stressed I usually get quiet. In fact one of the first ways my husband knows I’m stressed is that I don’t talk much. I know the likelihood of saying things that I will later regret goes up when I’m stressed, so I don’t say much at all.

That may or may not be a healthy way to handle stress. I’ve learned that people around me appreciate knowing what I’m feeling stressed about; at least they don’t have to worry that they are doing something wrong. Unless of course they ARE the cause of my stress! (OOPS, better be careful here.)

There are many different ways of handling stress. Here are a few:

  1. Shut down. Perhaps when I get quiet it is a form of shutting down. Some people withdraw from doing even necessary activities when stress gets severe. When this reaches the level of neglecting important responsibilities and relationships, it can become a serious problem.
  2. Explode. Yell and scream at the employees, the store clerk, the kids, the wife, even the dog. Each of us needs a safe place to “let off steam,”, but it’s important to do this in a way that does not lead to physical or psychological injury to others.
  3. Work harder. Burying oneself in work of any kind can sometimes seem like an escape from stress. A degree of this may be a healthy distraction, but when it prevents you from taking necessary steps to deal with the stress it can become dangerous.
  4. Turn to addictions. Alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling, electronic media – just about anything to not feel, not think, not have to deal with the stressful situations. Any addiction can lead to serious consequences.
  5. Get sick. Overwhelming stress can make anyone sick. Some people, however, respond to any stress with physical symptoms that may be out of proportion to the actual circumstances. This can be a problem if you only focus on the physical symptoms and not the stressful cause.

Understanding how you respond to stress can allow you to recognize when the normal every-day stress is becoming too much. Life is stressful! Understanding what your “stress meter” is will help you detect problems before they cause damage to your physical, emotional, or spiritual health.

And if you’re not handling stress well, understanding your usual responses gives you an idea of where you need to work on handling stress better.

So for me, I will be aware of when I feel like shutting down. I’ll get some extra rest, and find someone to talk to: my husband, or a good friend, and God. I know that will be helpful to me, and to those around me.

Your turn: How do YOU handle stress? Are your coping mechanisms healthy? Why, or why not? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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