We’ve had plenty of unusual stressors over the last year. There are the COVID pandemic, historically low temperatures, ice, and lengthy periods without power for us in Texas and other parts of the nation.
It’s stressful when you have no power, no water, broken pipes; when you must shelter away from your home and bed; when you have people to care for but you can’t get to them; you have no access to groceries or supplies; the internet is down so no communication or productivity; you must wear a mask, you can’t gather socially as you want, can’t get the vaccine, and more (add your own misery here).
People don’t do well with things like this because we all want life to be smooth, convenient, comfortable, and without the struggle. But there are problems like weather and a pandemic that you can’t control. It ought to be easier than that. Right?
If you don’t pay close attention, you may give up control of your thoughts, emotions, and actions to the circumstances. You become a victim, and that’s a recipe for misery.
But you don’t have to give up control. You can be the hero in your own story by managing the one thing you can manage – You. You and only you can manage your thoughts, emotions, and actions amid those circumstances. Stress can work for you rather than making you miserable.
Here’s how you can put your stress to work for you, whatever the source or intensity.
When you’re in the middle of a stressful situation:
- Remember your main purpose and stay focused on what’s important. It’s advisable to establish this early. It will help you look beyond the immediate challenge to the bigger picture for your life. If you’ve not established your purpose and values clearly, you can be easily distracted by smaller things. The old saying goes, “When you are surrounded by snapping alligators, it’s easy to forget that your original intention was to drain the swamp.” Focus on your original intention related to your values and purpose.
Always remember, your focus determines your reality. – Qui-Gon Jinn, Jedi Knight in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
- Reframe. Reframe the situation by affirming that stressors are:
- Difficult. That’s what makes them “stressful.” Don’t be surprised by the difficulty.
- Means not ends. Stressors can teach and give birth to wisdom. What can you discover about yourself and your life circumstances in the stress?
If you are disturbed by a thing, it is not the thing that disturbs you but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out this judgment now. — Marcus Aurelius, philosopher
- Lower your expectations of yourself, others, and your environment. Someone said that “Expectations are premeditated resentments.” If you expect life to be smooth as silk and people to do what you want, you will likely be filled with resentment when it is not. If you base your happiness and fulfillment on magical thinking and unrealistic expectations, disappointment and misery will become your close companions.
Instead, be grateful for what you have and what is. You can also be grateful for things you don’t have and things that are not happening. The act of being grateful is a choice, and often, you must fake it until you make it.
- Create clear boundaries and hold them assertively. Don’t allow others to create stress for you in an already stressful environment.
- Take time to be alone to care for yourself. Take time to use relaxation techniques that can bring you back to a place of optimum stress and keep you in touch with how it feels to be more relaxed.
- “Worry well” is a term coined by Ed Hallowell in his book “Worry.” It’s good to worry about some things because it helps us prepare for what may come. But, avoid unhelpful, ruminating, unproductive worry, which can be toxic. Wait to worry about things. If you can’t turn your worry off, try setting a 10 minute time at the end of the day to worry and put all worry off until then.
- Engage positive, supportive influences. If you only listen to the news and negative people, you will become stressed and negative. Establish set times to visit with people you love and make negative attitudes and words off-limits. Talk about the positive things for which you are grateful. You’ll feel better.
- Prepare for stressful situations with exceptional self-care. The healthier you are — physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, intellectually – the better you will manage stress. I provide 40 ways to do this in my book Put Stress to Work.
- Hang in there. I like the saying, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” Instead of viewing stress as drudgery, try to see it as a force that makes you better.
- Develop robust resilience – Resilience is the ability to bend without breaking and return to a previous state but stronger. You can find ten ways to do this in Put Stress to Work.
- Refine your self-management. Define clear priorities, do only what is important, and don’t procrastinate in getting to it. Work hard to achieve razor-sharp efficiency and keep it simple. Say “no” more often. When developed as a habit of life, these things help greatly in stressful situations.
- Look for ways to serve others. Stress will turn your thoughts to survival when there is no real threat to your survival. Try turning your thoughts outward and find ways to serve others during your times of stress.
And there are many more tips that will make you a masterful manager of stress if you implement them. You can find these in Put Stress to Work.
Don’t try to do all twelve of the tips above at one time. Choose a one or two that you believe will make the biggest difference for you and work on those. Once you master them, you can work on more.
Most of us need support and encouragement for the disciplined management of stress. It’s easy to let our emotions get away with us. At True Course, we can provide that support and encouragement for you through coaching that will make you a masterful stress manager. You will need support for making courageous choices and acting on them. Why wait another day?
Contact us now to get started.