Emotional Piggy Bank

April 25, 2003

I respond to job stress by looking for a way to change the situation. In the past this has led to cross-country moves to new job situations. If moving to a new job situation eliminated the stress and I was able to stay in the new situation for as long as I wanted this would be an okay response. However, the mere fact that I moved cross-country 3 times in less than 3 years is an indication that a new job isn't the answer.

So I have spent a lot of time and energy recently to understand my current work situation, so I could deal with the real issues and not just the surface stress. I feel that I have been moderately successful in this endeavor. However there are still moments of stress that prod me into wanting a change.

The stress energy builds in me until I need an outlet. I'm talking about little day-to-day occurrences that taken individually are hardly worth mentioning. Taken one after the other they begin to wear me down, eventually my stress level is high without any one thing to point at and say, 'this is responsible.' I am left feeling like I am over reacting and as a consequence I shove the stress down into my emotional piggy bank without giving it expression. Naturally it earns interest in that bank, and when I finally withdraw it, I over react in a way that maybe harmful to me and my family.

For a number of years I worked out in the martial arts and the physical activity there helped to burn off some of the little day-to-day stresses. I wasn't dealing with the real issues then, so eventually it caught up with me. Physical release alone is not enough. But physical activity did help to vent the minor little day-to-day things in a way that was helpful. I have learned how to express my emotions openly and honestly in the moment, which has made a vast improvement in my responses to situations. However, I am still adding some of these little day-to-day stresses to my emotional piggy bank.

My current work situation, when viewed from some angles, is very much out of control. No ones knows what is going to happen in the next few months, and rumors are a dime a dozen. As much as I like to think that I have grown beyond the need to wallow in this atmosphere of fear, uncertainty, and doubt, I haven't. And, because these rumors tend to fall into the minor day-to-day annoyance category I tend not to express them like I should.

Without some kind of safety value the pressure of these little stresses will build to the point where I feel the only way out is to leave. What I need is someway to constructive expend the energy that my emotional stress piggy bank holds. I can't work through this stuff with my coworkers. In many cases they are the stress. I feel badly bringing home petty work innuendo and rumor, for it isn't fair to dump this on my wife. I either need to take up a physical hobby again, which, combined with my openness regarding my emotional life, will help to keep things in balance. Or I need to develop a new habit to express this stress.

This morning at work I packed up some textbooks I no longer use, and generally tidied up my area. The change this created felt good, I felt less stressed just by exerting some control here where I feel no control at all. I think the answer to expressing these little day-to-day gotchas lies in finding a way or ways to feel in control, especially when all the events around me feel out of control.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.