The Stress Mess

By Robert Goldman

July 16, 2020 5 min read

In case you haven't noticed, we live in a stressful world.

There are reasons to be stressed out, right outside your front door. There are major stressors inside your front door, as well.

You have a virtual job with a very real boss. If you live alone, you could be stressed by feelings of isolation. If you live with others, you could be stressed because you never get a chance to have feelings of isolation.

(Really! If your partner can't learn to do the dishes instead of leaving them in the sink, you have every reason to go ballistic. I know it's a lot of ask of a labradoodle, but at least they could try.)

For a serious look at managing your current stress level, let's turn to Nicole Lipkin, a contributor to Forbes. Lipkin's post, "How to Manage Your Stress During Quarantine," is quick to assure us that in these uncertain times, being a walking stress ball is completely understandable.

"Our brains hate ambiguity," she writes. "Ambiguity taxes our mental state. We may not even realize it, but in the background, it's wearing us down."

In other words, even when you're not feeling stressed, you really are stressed, only you just don't know it.

Thanks, brain! Way to be a team player.

What to do? The first step is to "know when your shelf is sagging."

That there's a metaphor, friend. Your stress is like a shelf onto which you add books, which are metaphors for your individual stressors. (Lucky you — two metaphors in one column!) Put enough books on the shelf and eventually, "All the books tumble down."

At this point, you have to get a new shelf, which either means a trip to HR or a trip to Ikea. I'm too tangled in metaphors to know for sure. I hope it's HR. No matter how much stress you get from your job, it's better than going to Ikea.

You are also advised to "cut down on news updates." Lipkin is certainly right when she writes, "Allowing the barrage of depressing news ... will add to your sagging shelf."

If you're the sort of person who can't resist the news, bad or good, going cold turkey may be impossible. I suggest you continue to monitor the news 24/7, but shift the focus from what's happening in the real world to what's happening on "Million Dollar Listing LA."

Wow! Bombshells are exploding 24/7 on the show, especially now that Josh and Colton have broken up, and Fredrik is making a move from million-dollar deals in NY to million-dollar deals in LA, and what about Tracy! She dissed David and James over a Pasadena listing, even though the three would rather sell underwater view lots in the Mariana Trench than sell a property than isn't in Beverly Hills!

We've only scratched the surface here, newswise, and I'll bet your shelf is as steady as a rock.

"Don't let Gratitude Granny nag you all day" is another recommendation for the sagging-shelf set. The idea here is that you don't have to "feel gratitude every second of every minute." Instead, feel free to drown yourself in negativity for minutes — if not hours — of every day.

I advise you take on the job of listing everything that's stressing you out. When you're done, you'll feel really awful, but you will have finished a project, and that is something for which you can feel grateful.

"Set boundaries" is your final recommendation from Lipkin. Draw lines between you and everyone who has the potential to invade the personal space you need to unstress. This is especially important for parents, who are advised to "let go of the guilt suitcase and let the kids watch some TV if you need to occupy some time."

This dovetails nicely with the previous advice to shift your need for news to the steamy confection that is "Million Dollar Listing LA." With your guilt suitcase and Gratitude Granny in the closet — and you might as well throw in that darn shelf — assign your children the job of watching the show. Demand executive summaries on each week's developments. They can ignore their homework, of course.

Taking on this project will not only empty your shelf but also be a good introduction to working on a ridiculous project for an unreasonable boss — invaluable experience when the kiddos enter the business world.

If your children can't handle the responsibility, fire them, and assign the job to your labradoodle.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: 12019 at Pixabay

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