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ASCM Insights

Alleviate Stress With This Simple Strategy


Stress is a choice.

Some people have a difficult time with this idea. They think that the things stressing us out are the people and events in our lives — market conditions, management, the boss, colleagues, customers, traffic, weather. But that simply isn’t true.

Yes, bad things happen: The economy sours, the stock market tumbles, our business struggles, jobs are lost, deadlines are missed, projects fail, and good people leave. Life is full of these challenges. But whatever the trigger event may be, we always choose our own response. We choose to react angrily. We choose to stuff our emotions and keep quiet. We choose to worry.

Stress is the result of these choices. The truth is, if you want to change a situation, another person or your own stress level, you must start with yourself. Personal accountability is absolutely essential to developing people and teams, achieving objectives, fulfilling any vision, competing in the marketplace — and reaching these goals with as little stress as possible.


When we choose to ask why, when and who questions — such as, “Why me?,” “When will this happen?” and “Who is responsible for that?,” this takes away our control and leads us to a victim mentality. Even when we actually are victims of something, this kind of mindset only adds to our stress levels.

Instead, ask questions that start with “what” or “how.” For example, if you consider what you can do to make a difference or how you can complete a project on time, you are forced to think inward for a solution or plan. The answer comes from you, and you are accountable for your own choices.

Here are some examples that each of us comes across in our lives from time to time:

  • “Why don’t they communicate better?” Remember, both written and verbal communication can be all about the receiver’s perception. Effective communication means not only being understood, but also understanding the other person.
  • “When will something get done/arrive/ be ready for me?” When we ask “When?,” we’re really saying that we have no choice but to wait and put off action until another time. This leads to procrastination, missed deadlines and lower productivity. If you want to move forward, ask “what” questions. For instance, “What will it take for you to have the report to me on Friday?” This empowers the other person to tell you how they will get it done. Additionally, you have stated the deadline, so you are managing the process.
  • “Who caused this problem?” Team members rely on each other’s expertise to bring a project or a goal to a successful result. Compartmentalizing, infighting and lack of respect can drain the life right out of an organization and seriously damage the culture. Avoid the circle of blame by ensuring that you are practicing personal accountability before questioning others. Silos are for corn, not people.


People change one at a time, through their own resolve. Therefore, we must focus on controlling the things that we, ourselves, can control. There’s always a barrier of some kind to be overcome that will challenge us.

Winners don’t make excuses. Instead, they learn to appreciate each other’s unique gifts and strengths. Then, they play to those strengths. Perhaps most importantly, they demonstrate integrity by doing the right thing, even when no one is looking. That’s the best way to walk the talk and choose to live stress-free.

About the Author

Janet Duckham

Janet Duckham is a semi-retired leadership veteran with 35 years of supply chain experience. She may be contacted at