In the last year, I’ve spent some time talking about stress in almost every training program I conduct on almost every topic! . I don’t think there is more of it. I think it is as unrelenting as ever. But I hear more people talk about how besieged they are by the stress in their lives. It’s not just work; it’s also at home. It’s not just the masses; it is the C-Suite as well. It’s every industry and I hear it from people in every age group.
After conducting stress management programs for many years, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s often like presenting a ‘stand-up book report.” If people want to learn how to manage their stress or their time better, they can read any one of the hundreds of books and articles available. And because I work at keeping the research fresh and learning about the most recent trends, occasionally I can provide people with ideas and concepts and tips and tricks to manage their lives more effectively. And I learn from my participants about tools and strategies that they use that work for them to add to my list.
But for the most part, it’s about attitude. If people aren’t motivated to change their habits, then it doesn’t matter how many tools they learn. Nothing changes if noting changes. And if stress comes with the territory – part of the company culture, inherent in your industry, a result of your inability to prioritize, a result of your failure to say ‘no’ judiciously – then you will have to decide if you are going to run and hide from it (creating another and unique kind of stress) or develop some discipline
These four steps are so critical to managing stress that I now repeat them throughout programs until people understand that it’s NOT a mistake but an effort to drive home the point and have them be able to see it enough times to be able to know it by heart.
When you are experiencing stress – the first thing you should do is stop what you are doing and take a moment. Become aware that you are running, talking too fast, making mistakes, speeding, tense, clenching your jaw, holding your breath.
Evaluate what is going on with you and why. Consider if this is the best thing for you to be doing right now – and what would be better and preferred.
Choose the one thing that makes sense to do. It might be walking away, it might be biting your tongue, it might be choosing one task over 5 to complete. Decide the best way to take control over that moment.
And then do it. It will mean doing something differently than you have been doing things. Take control of your day, your action, your words, and your behavior. It’s the one area where you DO have total control so step up and use it.
Life is not going to stop or slow down because you’d like it to. It doesn’t seem to ever work like that. Create some limits that help you focus. Learn how to communicate to people so they understand your goals and parameters. Ask for support in ways that allow people to assist you, while you respect their parameters and limits.
One person’s stress is another person’s delight but everyone can lose control of their day at times. The goal with managing stress, work and your life is to figure out if you can reduce the pressure, and how to increase your ability to manage it. Everyone can but not everyone does.