Stress negatively affects our relationships at work and home. It also damages our physical health. This leads to lower job performance, conflicts between coworkers, and loss of valuable customers. Unfortunately, stress on the job is a common phenomenon.

According to the American Institute of Stress (AIS, 2017), 80 percent of workers feel stress on the job; nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress, and 42 percent say their coworkers need such help. Additionally, 14 percent had felt like striking a coworker in the past year, but didn’t, and 25 percent have felt like screaming or shouting because of job stress. Service advisors are no different. Service advisors may experience stress from things like performing a walk around, memorizing a sales pitch, locating a technician, or following up with customers that are stressed as much as they are.

The challenge is that when stress is not managed appropriately or is ignored completely, it becomes anxiety. Anxiety is a natural reaction to stress, which prevents service advisors from performing their duties. People respond to anxiety differently. Some run, others begin to argue, others avoid their stressors, while others lie or blame, and there are those who freeze without the ability to move forward.

American psychologist Dr. Murray Bowen stated that the biggest challenge of higher anxiety is that it leads to lower comprehension. The less thoughtful we are, the more reactive we are. Our responses to stress can build up with a snowball effect. If you ever found yourself so overwhelmed at work that you do not even know where to begin addressing all the demands that come upon you, then you experienced anxiety. If you ever found yourself so stressed at work that you began to think that the grass is greener on the other side, you experienced anxiety.

Many self-help books focus on people’s reactions to stress, rather than the root cause of the stress, by offering immediate solutions. Those professionals will provide countless options on how to fight, avoid, run, freeze, blame, or lie to themselves about their relationships to their stressors and professional futures. This in turn will only fuel the fire and expand the feeling of stress. People suffer because they see stress as all bad. However, the biggest enemy of service advisors is not stress but their relationship to their stress. In other words, it is not whether you experience stress at work, it is how you think about and respond to those stressors.

Stress is not all bad. Mild stress, which a person is able to manage, can be good as it motivates people to connect with others, increases memory ability, keeps people more alert, and motivates them to get things done. Every individual experiences some level of stress. It is not about refraining from stress. That is impossible. It is about expanding your boundaries as they relate to stress. Let me explain.

Many people want a service advisor job but they do not want long working hours. They want a service advisor paycheck but they do not want to work for commission. A lot of people want to be the top sales and service professional. A lot of people like to fantasize what they would do if they made money like the top guy, how easy their job would be if they knew as many people and had as many connections as the top guy, if they knew how to work the system like the top guy. Everyone sees the end result and ends up fantasizing about how they would use the benefits of the hard work. They want the results but they do not want a service advisor’s struggles and stresses.

The most successful service advisor is not the one who knows how to use the benefits of the top guy but rather the one who prepares for the struggle and stresses of the top guy. A satisfied and successful sales and service advisor accepts their struggles as a part of their environment. It is their ability to manage your struggles that makes them the most successful. The road to achieving your goals means learning how to be comfortable with uncomfortable, which means expanding your boundaries to stress management.

I am not going to tell you how to escape your problems. Instead, I encourage you to see your problems as your friends and live with them. By connecting to your problems and stressors, you can create positive relationships with difficulties in your life. When you are able to find comfort in the discomfort of your organizational stressors, you will become invincible. You will start seeing stressors as opportunities for growth and possibilities. You will be able to manage even more stressors in your work life and with that, expand your flexibility. You will be able to expand your boundaries to stress and manage more stressors more effectively.

It does not matter what makes you stressed. Every single service manager, service advisor, and service technician gets stressed. It is not about trying to eliminate those stressors. It is about getting closer to them. The more you are trying to find a quick solution to your problems by eliminating them from your life, because they make you feel uncomfortable, the more they will bother you and make you uncomfortable.

Stresses at the service drive looks different for everyone. Some are stressed about RO’s, others about a long list of follow up phone calls they must make, and others question whether working so many hours is worth the benefits you receive. The bottom line is not about not getting stressed. We all get stressed. It is about what you do when you are getting stressed. So, the next time you find yourself being stressed, do not try to avoid the discomfort of being stressed. Instead, follow four steps to stress management to expand your response options. These four steps are:

Step 1: Make a mental note to yourself when something made you feel uncomfortable and stressed.

This is the most important step, and often done incorrectly because many people are dishonest to themselves about what makes them stressed. So don’t rush it. You do not have to meet anybody’s expectations and there is no one to impress. You are doing it for yourself.

Step 2: Become curious about it.

Ask yourself: What is it that really makes me feel uncomfortable? What would be my first desired response toward that discomfort and the least desired response? Why is that?

Step 3: Try to keep yourself in this discomfort (as long as it is not physically dangerous) for a while.

How long can you stay in this discomfort? What seems to change as you remain in this discomfort? After you are done and the situation repeats itself, try to keep yourself in this discomfort for even longer. What seems to change this time?

Step 4: Enjoy the exploration of you.

Some discoveries will be joyful and some of them could be emotionally difficult. Yet, all will come with new knowledge about yourself, which will help you free yourself from your own limitations. I hope you enjoy your journey of discovery.

As you can probably guess, these steps to stress management could be applied beyond the service drive. However, no matter how we try not to, our relationships at home affect our relationships at work. In the same way, our relationships at work affect our relationships at home. Hence, if you are able to manage stress in one area of your life, it will ultimately benefit the other areas of your life as well.

Author: Dr. Katia Tikhonravova, Ph.D., LMFT

Dr. Katia Tikhonravova, Ph.D., LMFT is a business and relationships coach who specializes in automotive sales and service relationships. She is an owner of Corporation Clinic. EMAIL: corporationclinic@gmail.com

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