Being Successful at Stress Management
We all feel stress. We grind our teeth at night, clench our jaws, give ourselves heart palpitations and tension headaches. Sometimes it’s from our jobs, sometimes it’s from family, or from our friends demanding our attention. Sometimes it’s from all the bills we have to pay, lack of sleep, staying on a diet, fitting in exercise, dropping off and picking up kids from various sports practices, and how we must always act like an “adult”.
Some of us, like me, love their job. Yet, there are always those difficult days, weeks, or even entire months that drive us crazy. Deadlines and pressure can really get the best of us. For those of us like a close friend of mine, wedding planning and finding dresses for difficult to please bridesmaids keeps her up at night. Life is stressful, period.
So we know that’s not going to change. The world is not going to pause simply for our convenience. Therefore, we must adapt or suffer. So how can anyone adapt to such hard lines? How?!
Recently at TrainUp.com, we had a big office relocation. Imagine working while your desk is being dismantled, and still trying to meet your weekly goals while setting up phone and internet in a new space. It seemed impossible, but we pulled it off. Not only did we pull it off, but we all stayed very calm and organized during the whole process.
You see, managing stressful situations is easier than it seems. It is possible!
Stress management comes down to a couple of major things:
Accepting Chaos. When we accept Chaos, we then anticipate our stressors. The TrainUp staff knew what to expect during our office move, and accepted that stressful things would turn our office upside down for a few days. When we did that, we could better prepare for the stressors, and it didn’t bother us as much as it would have if we kept trying to fight it. Basically, flow with the current instead of against it, flow with it in rhythm.
Recently, we here at TrainUp had the privilege of meeting Bruce Miller, author of Your Life in Rhythm. Bruce spoke to us about the concept of rhythm and life stages. When you recognize the life, or business, stage you are in, you then accept it along with the unique challenges it brings. You can then anticipate, and almost coach yourself on how to tackle them. We will talk more about Bruce’s lesson later in this article.
Organization. Organize your office, organize your home, organize your time, organize your priorities, and organize your thoughts.
Here is my process:
- Be Aware
- Talk about it
The first thing to do is to recognize the problem. What exactly is it that is causing your stress? Once you identify the cause, you can be more aware, and begin to observe your stressors. From here, you must take a step back and come up with a structured plan to handle each of these stress triggers.
The American Psychology Association agrees with me here, and have some solid advice about this, stating: “Keep a journal for a week or two to identify which situations create the most stress and how you respond to them. Record your thoughts, feelings and information about the environment, including the people and circumstances involved, the physical setting and how you reacted. Did you raise your voice? Get a snack from the vending machine? Go for a walk? Taking notes can help you find patterns among your stressors and your reactions to them.”
So you see, having an awareness, an acceptance, and then being able to detach, analyze, and plan, creates a light at the end of the tunnel, and these solutions lead to calmness. I know I sound like a yoga guru, but seriously, just go with it!
During our office move, we had a meeting. Yes, we got together and actually talked about it. We talked about how this could be a stressful situation, we accepted the stress, and agreed to work with it and through it instead of fighting it. We took the approach of moving rhythmically within our current business stage, bending and weaving with each challenge and creating solutions. We talked through the steps we thought we could take to make this move easier. We created our plan step by step, delegated tasks, and objectives. Each person followed their designated action plan, and things went very smoothly.
For Example, Each person was in charge of moving their own computers and workstation. We had a big packing/cleaning day the day before the movers came, and everyone helped each other. This was done in such a way that we could still perform our daily work tasks, while getting these additional things done. On the day of the move we all met at the new office, helped place furniture, set up our work stations, and tested the equipment together. Afterwards we had a relaxing team dinner to celebrate a job well done. I believe the things that aided us most, were communication, organization prior to the moving day, and the support of the team.
This type of approach can extend to every task, and healthy stress management can keep your relationships positive with coworkers, friends, family, and spouses. You can maintain control of any situation with Acceptance of what is in the now, and planning for what is ahead. Prioritization, communication, and excellent organization come out of this acceptance. Making time to do this is essential, a little time spend reflecting, analyzing, and organizing today, will help you every single day from that moment on.
Let’s take a look at how this approach can benefit my friend who is having the bridesmaid dress crisis.
Realizing where she is in this process is step one. Step one includes figuring out your end goal, and also what expectations you have. This is when you think about things a little more, and decide what is actually realistic. Letting go of some of your more unreachable expectations will benefit you by lowering the level of stress you put upon yourself. Remember that no person, situation, event, or thing ever needs to be 100% perfect.
Getting us all together to discuss solutions would be step two: All bridesmaids in a room together, discussing the choices and preferences diplomatically. Step three would be to analyze the group’s likes and dislikes. Based on the good and bad, there must exist somewhere in this universe, a dress that 5 girls with similar interests can all agree on as being “cute”, that also wins over the bride. Then with all 5 bridesmaids present to try on the dress with the most votes, plus a few alternatives, our bride can analyze how the dresses looks on each body type involved. Hopefully out of these, there is a winner, but if not it’s ok too. Nothing is ever guaranteed, and there is always another day. That’s just the flow of things sometimes. We’ll just sip our champagne and say, “on to the next!”
As for the bridesmaids: we are there to back our bride on her big day. We must accept in this instance, that we are not entitled to be dramatic nor picky. We must accept that we exist most importantly as her support system.
In the end it’s the bride’s choice and we all have to be supportive of that. Her stress level also rests entirely upon the expectations she has set in her own mind for this particular day of dress fitting. If she lets go of the idea that “There MUST be a decision made TODAY” then there will be no pressure, she will feel much calmer, and the day will actually be fun for her, like it should be!
There is a quote I recently heard that ties into this quite well: “Be happy for this moment, this moment is your life”- Omar Khayyam.
Basically folks, your life stage, where you are now, is unique to you. Enjoy it! Don’t let the pressures of planning a life event ruin the fun. Also, don’t let the expectations you set for yourself about life in general interfere with your happiness today. We as children all thought that we just grow up, immediately get jobs, cars, money, spouses, babies, and then live happily ever after. (Us girls can thank the Disney princesses for that illusion). If you ask a 6 year old what age they anticipate all of this happening, a lot of the time they say 25 years old. Folks that just makes me laugh. As adults, if we still expect this for ourselves, I’m sorry but that’s just being too naïve.
I have friends in their 20s, 30s, 40s and some in their 50s and 60s that have all deviated seriously from that 6 year old’s expected life path, and guess what, it’s totally ok with every one of them! They love their lives! You see, you cannot compare yourself to another, or worry that you are falling behind, as if life runs on some sort of fixed schedule. It doesn’t. Why set unrealistic expectations that do not fit who we are, or where we feel we are in our lives. For example, if your friend makes more money than you do right now, so what? Good for them, but that doesn’t have to reflect at all on where you are in your own life. Ok, so maybe you’re the single one and all of your friends are in relationships, again, that is what works for them, but it doesn’t have to be an expectation right now for you. Ignore your nagging relatives “when are you going to get married and give us a grandchild?” I personally struggle with this one, and following this advice, I choose to just smile and block it out. Why stress myself out about it?
Life is a moving thing, it is not rigid. Too often we are trying to balance our lives to be perfect in everything all at once, and meet society’s fixed schedule of expectations, but that’s just not real-world achievable. As Bruce Miller points out in his book, there is a difference between Cronos, fixed time, and Kairos, the emotional and developmental stages of your life. His concept of rhythm vs. balance is a much more practical way of looking at your life, and eliminating the pressures of it. Bruce says “Balance is a pose, rhythm is a dance. Balance is static, rhythm is dynamic. Balance is rigid, rhythm is flexible. Balance suggests you can have it all now, rhythm suggests you can have much, but over time….”
So, to the teeth grinding Tim, Palpitation Patty, sweat the small stuff Sally, and Sleepless Sam; there is a way to handle problems much better than what you are currently doing. For your own sake, breathe, slow down, look at it objectively, realize what you’re really dealing with, don’t over-analyze, and create a step-by-step plan to tackle it. Baby steps are easier than full on runs and hurdles after-all. Nobody is in the same place at the exact same time in their lives, and remember that nothing is unsolvable, nothing is impossible, and everything can and will be ok.
For more help on how to manage stress, here are a few great classes from TrainUp.com!
You can also contact us here at TrainUp.com to request Bruce to speak at your company events.