Stress blog

Finest hour or flame out?

By Edward T. Creagan, M.D. November 17, 2010

Need more help?

If the stress in your life is more than you can cope with, get help right away.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Go to the nearest hospital or emergency room
  • Call your physician, health provider or clergy
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
    1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

Picture this scene: A major U.S. airport devolves into chaos because of an unexpected strike by airline employees. Stranded passengers face off with overworked airline personnel.

At an airline counter, two representatives work side by side. One gentleman is methodically and professionally addressing the anger and frustration of passengers as they come up to him and berate him for this inconvenience. Through it all, he keeps his composure. He's completely unflappable.

His colleague, on the other hand, looks as if he's about to have a stroke. His pupils are dilated, he's sweating profusely and his neck veins are bulging. When passengers scream at him, he screams back. When passengers gesture angrily toward him, he gestures angrily back. Emotions on both sides escalate to the verge of violence.

So what's the lesson here? In this situation, who suffered the most? The gentleman who lost his composure. The other gentleman, in contrast, kept his composure and treated others with dignity and respect. And in the process, he preserved his self-respect and decreased his risk of a heart attack or other stress-related problem.

So in the face of adversity, you still have choices. Some people choose to have their finest hour, while others choose to go down in flames. What would you choose?


Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

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10 Comments Posted

Nov. 17, 2010