How I deal with Stress
The other day someone asked me how I am dealing with the stress of my upcoming PE (Professional Engineering) exam. I honestly could not answer the question. With the test rapidly approaching I know I should feel stressed, but at this point, I still don't. In three days I will take a test that could advance my career serval years overnight if I pass. I may very well wake up on the morning of the test freaking out over a number of things. All the formulas that I still don't understand how to use. The fact that if I fail I will have to wait 6 months to try again and spend hundreds of dollars to reapply to take the exam. Or maybe just the thought of getting a flat tire on the hour and a half drive to the exam center. For now, it is just another day of work for me. Eight hours plus some overtime (not that I am paid for it) with a 3-hour drive I have made more times than I can count for other business purposes.
Stressing is never something that I have done particularly well. By that, I don't mean that I don't handle stress well. More so that I don't do a good job of worrying about things in the first place. Worry is the seed that stress grows from in our minds. I have never seen my worrying accomplish anything and at some point, I learned to stop.
When I was in high school I took a turn too fast on a dirt road and my car slid off the road and hit a tree. By the time the vehicle met the tree, I wasn't going super fast and nothing really came of it. At the time though, I was stressed. It was the first car accident that I had ever been in while I was driving and I had no clue what to do. I can still remember feeling sick I was so worried about what would happen. Once I had calmed down a little, I climbed out of the car examined the damage and there was really nothing there. It was an old steel body car and there was a small dent in the front of the car by the passenger side wheel well. So I got back in the car, backed out of the ditch, and finished my drive to school. I still remember thinking as I drove away that the worst part of the whole thing had been my overreaction to the whole situation.
Sometime after that, I heard what is still to this day my favorite movie quote of all time:
"Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it doesn't get you anywhere." ~Van Wilder
Something about that statement really resonated with me and from then on I decided that when things started going south I wouldn't worry, I would plan. When something starts to not go my way in life, my first action is to think of at least two ways to deal with the immediate problem. After that, I think about which plan will allow me to correct the initial issue with the least inconvenience to the situation and make preparations to implement the plan as needed moving forward. Some people would say that is the same as worrying. I would tell them that I have never lost sleep at night because of my backup plans. Have you lost sleep over yours?
The oxford dictionary describes worry as "giving way to anxiety or unease". This "giving way" is what causes stress. Stress is not good for any system. Stress is defined mechanically as the measure of internal forces acting on a body when an external force is applied to it. The reason that there is an entire discipline of engineering devoted to examining these stresses is that stress causes materials to fail. Don't let your stress cause you to fail. Examine the problem, make a plan(ask for help if you need to), and move forward with confidence.
If my test results come back and I failed, my backup plan is simple: take the test again at some point. As long as I am already working under a PE (which I am) my license is only good for a pay raise and a new title. I would never turn down a pay raise, but Erin and I do not want for much at my current rate of pay and you can't eat a title. Dad is planning to retire around 6 years from now so I have plenty of time to try again. That is why I am not worried. And since I am not worried, I can't be stressed.
All that being said I would love to pass and have the whole ordeal done and over with. So hopefully at some point here soon I will be posting about "how it feels to move forward" or something along those lines. In the meantime, I hope this message finds you in good health and of a sound mind. I am just another confused father wondering...
What are you worried about?
Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his measure?