Admit it. You know what stress is because you have experienced it. You may experience it almost daily. The world is moving faster than any of us, and we can’t keep up. I just read a cartoon in our newspaper. An old man was sitting on a bench with a little boy. The old man said that when he was young, he spent his summer evenings catching lightening bugs until dark. Then he asked the little boy how he was spending the summer. Then the little boy proceeded to name off a different specific activity that he was enrolled in every day of the week—all summer! Is that not a true analogy of how life has changed in a matter of a couple of generations?
Recently I followed a threaded conversation on an industry e-mail
list. Mothers were stressing over getting the kids back into school
and playing chauffer, laundress, housekeeper, cook and, oh yeah,
business owner. And that’s the short list! How can a person
manage to wear all his hats perfectly? It is not possible!
By the time you read this, you should be deep into the holiday demands
both at work and at home and your juggling act is expanding. I hope
that some of what I’m offering will help.
Stress can cause cancer, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke,
and the list of diseases goes on. By the way, it has been proven
that high blood pressure can cause memory loss. Just what a workroom
I remember when my partner and I closed our storefront business
and I went back home to work alone again. I had a doctor appointment
a couple of months after the closing. He took my blood pressure
and said it couldn’t be right so he took it again. But it was
right—way down from what it had been. I didn’t normally
have high blood pressure so this was quite a shock to both of us.
The world is an entirely different place than it was 50 years ago.
We must take all kinds of precautions from applying sunscreen to
prevent skin cancer all the way to protecting ourselves from other
human beings. We cannot prevent the things and situations that seem
to cause stress, but we can control it so that we stay healthy individuals.
PRIORITIZE AND PERSPECTIVE
Research has shown that prolonging stress relief—i.e. taking
a yearly vacation, a long weekend away every month, or even just
forgetting work for the weekend—is not a successful antidote.
To protect your body from stress related illnesses, you must address
stress before it happens, as it happens and after it happens.
Prioritize is a much used word today, but don’t let it become
so mundane that you ignore it. It is essential to prioritize. It’s
essential to know what your priorities are without a doubt! When
you think about all that you do including the unexpected chaos that
occurs all too often, you must remember your priorities and put
the situation in perspective.
Some of what I’m discussing here came from an article in an
old Reader’s Digest about relaxation. It was immediately followed
by a true story of a cobra that escaped from a zoo. The author ended
that story by saying whenever he faces any difficult situation,
he remembers being faced by an angry cobra and suddenly he is no
When I am faced with even minor disturbances I often say to myself,
“Will this matter in 10 years?” So far, I haven’t
gotten a Yes answer yet! Now if I could remember that question all
There is something else I’ve started doing. I read a story
in Guideposts about a missionary to an African country. She was
to give sewing lessons to one of the ladies in the tribe at 3:00
in the afternoon. More than an hour later, the student arrived.
The missionary was angry and said it would not work out if the student
could not be there promptly for lessons. The student laughed and
said she should have said so because everyone there operates on
“God's time!” The missionary was moved by that perspective.
My personal belief is that God will see that what needs to be done
will be done, if we do not interfere. When I’m stuck in traffic
or waiting in a long line, I try to remember that I’m operating
on “God's time.”
There are many ways to reduce stress and I certainly do not know
them all and neither do I practice all that I do know. Here are
some ideas to get you started.
• Read positive inspirational stories or books at bedtime just
before you go to sleep. Make it short, because your mind remembers
best the beginning and the end of anything you are doing. The point
is to take your mind off problems and put uplifting thoughts into
your mind before you go to sleep so that you get the restful sleep
you need. I do this every night with few exceptions. This is when
I read spiritual books.
• “Change how you see things and things will change how
they look.” That was said by Dr. Wayne Dyer. He's my favorite
spiritual author and one whose books I reread. I am currently reading
“The Power of Intention” and I had the delight to see
him present this seminar on PBS. He made the above statement repeatedly
in both the book and the seminar, and it is so true!
Stress is not a disease. It is a state of mind that you deliberately
assume when you are faced with fear: fear that you won’t make
the deadline; fear that Mrs. Jones won’t pay her bill; fear
that you won’t be able to figure out how to do that new treatment;
fear that you are not being a good mom or dad.
Suppose you have a client who is picking apart your work. Your immediate
response is likely one of defense and resentment. After all, you
put a lot of hard work, education and love into what you created.
How dare she challenge your abilities! Learn to recognize this kind
of response and mentally change your channel to the “discovery”
Now start looking for the wonderful and awesome things about that
person. They are there. They may be better at ranting and raving
than anyone you have ever met before! Give them credit for being
the best at it! Try to dwell on their good points and, more importantly,
look for what that person is teaching you! Remember you are on the
“discovery” channel and you are there to learn.
My mother was a schoolteacher who often had the most undisciplined
students. She said many times, “No matter how bad the child
is, I can always find something good about him.” Make it a
practice to look for the good in everyone and every situation, no
matter how bleak it may be.
I have come to the conclusion that the best way to deal with an
unpleasant situation, for which I cannot find anything really good,
is to thank God for what He’s teaching me because I know I
will learn something. When I have done that, the situation seems
to get resolved more easily and quickly and with far greater peace
of mind. Look for something different and you will find something
• Deep breathing is an exercise recommended by many for relaxation.
When you are in a stressful situation, take a few minutes and slowly
inhale and exhale, concentrating completely on breathing. This is
an old remedy but modern research indicates it’s an exceptionally
good way to address stress.
Along with this technique, remember to live one moment at a time.
You cannot change the past. You don’t know the future. So all
you can do is: breathe in, breathe out; take one step, then the
second step . . .
• Envision yourself being somewhere that you truly find relaxing,
peaceful and liberating. This is not as tough as you might think.
I personally envision clouds or the beach. In fact, I have a story
to support what it can do.
Back when I owned a retail and wholesale storefront, we were in
the midst of the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. One of our designer
clients was going over an order with me. She commented that I was
unusually calm in the midst of all the work. I had been meditating
each night. For maybe 15 minutes, I would put on some soft instrumental
music and my mind would drift away some place else where I had no
problems. It truly surprised me that someone else was aware of my
• Disciplined meditation is becoming very popular and it works.
There are many ways to meditate, including prayer. I meditate almost
every morning. Dr. Dyer recommends Japa, which he does. He even
has a tape to teach you how to do it. I’m considering getting
• Exercise, or take a walk and pay attention to nature. Walking
is something I try to do five days a week. I am blessed to have
a lovely park close by. I enjoy studying the trees, the lake, the
wildlife and everything else that nature has provided and cares
for. It is truly soothing and comforting to see what the universe
has created and sustains with virtually no help from man!
Occasionally, ideas for this column will pop into my head. As I
walk, I'll go over points I would like to make. The park is one
place where my mind is at rest so that good thoughts can get through
all the daily static of work.
• Learn to say “No!” Refuse to work overtime on a
regular basis. Too many of you think that just because a client
expects to have a job in a certain timeframe, they can have it.
You are the business owner. If the job involves so much work that
you know it will bring on stress, e.g. fear that you may not be
able to meet all your other obligations without many extra hours,
then don’t do it.
Have I ever worked seven days in a week or even all night? Yes!
But it was very, very rare. I did not work longer hours even for
the fall holiday rush. I turned work away or they waited until after
It’s a fact that situations will continually arise that can
cause stress. The good news is you can refuse to participate! Do
you want fear or calm? Disease or peace? It is your choice. What
will it be?
Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 26-year veteran of the drapery
workroom industry. Having owned drapery workrooms
as one person and as a company of nine, she is now president of Workroom
Concepts a consulting firm offering educational resources to the
industry on its Web site (
www.workroomconcepts.com ). Her experience
in both the retail and wholesale window covering arenas has contributed
to her success as a business consultant. A professional speaker and
writer, she has authored several industry products including Order
in the Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications and Price
Your Work with Confidence, available