Are you suffering at the hands of stress carriers? They create way more problems than they solve, so don’t march to their beat.


Are you a stress carrier or suffering at the hands of one? These are people who waltz around creating stress for other people. Frequently they’re bosses, life partners, supervisors. The ones who remind you over and over again about looming deadlines, point out miniscule and irrelevant flaws or mistakes in your work, and somehow make details they notice more important than anything you’ve observed.

They often aren’t instructing or improving themselves. By dumping on you, they transfer the concern off their own to-do list to an on-going nag list; so they can recite it to you over and over. The technique of one boss, whom I adored, was to make so many assignments with so many elements, that I constantly felt I was running a marathon. He’d simply run down his register weekly and ask for results. In this instance his approach bore fruit because I worked my butt off. When I finally left, I was replaced by three people.

Occasionally they’re friends or peers, not superiors. I heard of one stress carrier, a musician, who was able to have the entire band, including the director, jumping to her beat, by maintaining a litany of complaints about deadlines, whines over marketing efforts, disagreements about performance venues. She was disturbing the equilibrium of the whole organization.

Trouble is, the perspective of stress carriers sounds absolutely reasonable. Obtain bids for a printing job? A sensible request. Until the specifications, numbers, sizes and every other feature are amended over and over. A spouse who can’t decide on a vacation until you provide twenty options for lodging falls into this category. And in the wake of these demands, you’re sucked into negative feelings of doom, failure, helplessness, because emotions can be contagious.

I and a few others are currently working on an event with a stress carrier. Over the period of weeks, she asked us to develop a plan, critiqued each point, changed the parameters, talked to each of us independently, dwelt on particulars, told us why our suggestions wouldn’t work, then decided on something completely different. Each idea, every step was tweaked and re-tweaked until I couldn’t remember what, if anything, had been decided. Each of her reports seemed more dismal than the previous. Finally she ignored our advice and made her own decision. For which we were so grateful, we simply agreed with her.

I think I used to be a stress carrier myself. I remember making list after list, segueing into sub-lists, printed in different colors, with staggered and intersecting deadlines. These I’d distribute to others involved in a project, updated regularly. I now wonder if I caused more confusion and chaos than I resolved.

I feel so much better now that I finally realized I don’t have to do all the worrying of the world. Let loose and leave alone. I’ve learned to simply carry on carrying on. People usually can figure out what they need to do.

So if you’re dealing with a stress carrier, remember this. Nothing you do will relieve their anxiety or meet unreasonable standards, so stop trying to do the impossible.

Also remember this: “stressed” is “desserts” spelled backwards. If you can’t escape a stress carrier, treat yourself to something delish.