Some of us run to clear our heads, but for many people, the stress of everyday life prohibits enjoyment and motivation we need to get out there. Susan Balfour’s book Stress Control: Stress-Busting Strategies for the 21st Century has some great nuggets of advice…

Who is in Control?

A great deal of the stress experienced today, and its outward expression of anger, is connected with the expectation that we should be able to control things, but in fact we can’t. We own motor cars – once seen as ultimate symbols of independence and freedom – but we cannot drive them comfortably because too many other people also own cars and slow us down to a snail’s pace or get in our way.

We have developed wondrous modes of communication, but it is increasingly frustrating trying to get hold of a human being at the end of a telephone line without having to listen to endless recorded instructions about pressing buttons and wasting huge amounts of time. Emails are great except that we’re now swamped with receiving too many, especially the ones from people trying to sell us things we don’t want!

This is not to mention the emails that disappear into the ether and are never answered. It is extremely important that we learn some strategies for handling the internal anger that is, quite understandably, triggered by the stress of not being able to have the level of control we would like.

Internal anger as a result of feeling disempowered also often leads to depression. This is due to the energy being used to suppress the anger, which results in less being available for enjoyable living. Anger, of course, is suppressed because we know there is no point in getting angry with large corporations or machines.

There is a very apt saying: “Impression without expression leads to depression.” In this chapter we are going to look at ways of altering our attitudinal approach, so as not to damage our health.

The Positive No


Unclear boundaries cause stress, both for ourselves and other people. We are often afraid to say ‘No’, for fear of offending or upsetting others, but then we get pushed beyond our limits or find ourselves doing things we really didn’t want to do, or we allow others to encroach on our space and time to our own detriment. How often has this happened to you?

How often have you wished you’d said ‘No’? Saying ‘No’ is a way of protecting yourself. This little word can help you to create more of what you want in your own life, so in that sense it is one of the most useful words in your vocabulary. This is why I want to put before you the notion of the ‘Positive No’.

It has a different nuance. We often fear to use the word ‘No’, or feel upset when it is used towards us, because we give it a negative connotation. But if we could see ‘No’ as a positive utterance then we might see its creative advantages.

It is positive because it makes things clear and gives us the power not to be pushed around – it helps us to control stress. Using the ‘Positive No’ enables you: it is not resistant or drawing you away from life. It frees you to say ‘Yes’ to the things that will take you forward, that will enable you to achieve your desired goals, and not get sidetracked down a cul-de-sac.

Say ‘No’ with a ‘Yes’ voice

If you want to say ‘No’, but think you should be saying ‘Yes’, it is often because you think or feel that ‘No’ is somehow rude or offensive. The way round this one is to say ‘No’ with a ‘Yes’ voice! Practise this by saying ‘Yes’ to yourself when you’re alone, then say ‘No’ in exactly the same way.

When we say ‘Yes’ we use a different and usually more positive tone. The tone of your voice has the most important impact. It has been discovered in research studies that our tone conveys the message much more powerfully than our words.

Coping with a challenge

Strategy No 1:


When you absolutely cannot control a situation, the best and healthiest way of coping is to practise acceptance. If there is nothing you can do about it, let it go. Don’t get wound up and angry because you will simply jeopardise your health without solving the problem.

Strategy No 2:

Walk away

If you feel unable to control a situation sufficiently and you cannot accept it or find a way round it, another healthy reaction would be to decide to turn your back on it. You have regained control and decided on the action to take. This is empowering.

Walking away or cutting off from something may be the wisest choice you can make at that time.

Strategy No 3:

Make a positive decision

Another way to feel more in control generally is in making decisions. When we make the right decisions we feel in control, not perhaps of the circumstances, but of ourselves and our actions.

Sometimes that is the only control we can have. If appropriate, deciding on a plan for making changes that will give us more control is always energising, and beginning to implement the action is always empowering.