Control yourself, Grasshopper – The People factor when it comes to stress


“It isn’t the work that’s an issue for me. There’s a lot of it, but I can handle it. It’s the people!” I remember saying that any number of times when I became a manager, suddenly thrust into being responsible for mess-ups that weren’t of my making. At least it seemed that way to my then naïve viewpoint.

Sure, I had my heroes – usually stoic men and women who could be calm through anything. I tried to emulate them, and some would say I did it well. But inside, I was often anything but stoic and calm.

I was a mess.

The “What if’s” were my constant companion. “What if Charlie doesn’t get done on time?” What if Louise doesn’t come into work again?” “What if the next person I hire is a closet sociopath?”

Yes. Things were very hairy inside me sometimes. Until I learnt a few “rules that kept me sane and balanced:

  1. Know who I truly have any control over. The only person I can control is me. That means that if I’m worrying over someone else, there’s probably something I’m not worrying over about me. When I hired that last person, what wasn’t I looking at that makes me worry about him now? And why? Now that I’ve hired him, what can I put in place for myself that would give me peace of mind?
  2. Be transparent. If I’m not truly calm and stoic inside, then don’t pretend I am. That only sets me up for a future heart-attack, and lets others think something about me and the situation that’s simply not true. I may talk myself into thinking I’m doing everyone a favor, but I’m not. Not that throwing a fit is the answer. It definitely isn’t. But neither is bottling things up.
  3. Be open. It always amazes me how things turn out when I remain open. All those times when I decided ahead of time that a particular result was inevitable were never great. But any time where I was able to remain open to what became available were really pretty good.

For me, it’s always the people who I stress over. But it doesn’t have to be. When I’m open and transparent, and stop trying to control what I can’t, life is a lot less stressful.



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Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at .



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