Stress is your bad boyfriend (or girlfriend) that deserves to be put on notice.
You are probably aware there is a problem: Accordingly to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, 9 out 10 people surveyed say that they know that stress contributes to the development of a host of major health issues, including back pain, heart disease, and perhaps even cancer.
I like to use a relationship metaphor when discussing this topic because dealing with stress is probably one of the most important ongoing interactions that we’ll have in our lives. After all, it’s part of our DNA to respond to external triggers, to go into “fight or flight” mode when faced with the work, family, financial and other pressures that we run up against in the world out there.
While it may be impossible to “leave” stress completely, there is a lot we can do to renegotiate our relationship to stress so it doesn’t rule – and damage – our lives.
To help you get started, think about statements that you might jot down in a draft “Dear John” letter or say to a significant other in a counseling session. This exercise will help you analyze your relationship to stress so you can begin to manage it better:
Take a breath. Just as your mom may have told you to count to 10 before getting angry, it’s important to take a moment to recognize and control your reaction when things come up to make you anxious. Such time delays can be transformative: Shirley Michl, 1SmartLife’s Health & Wellness Expert, worked with a super-stressed exec who took this advice to heart and practiced more mindfulness, not just with daily breathing exercises but also by monitoring herself when responding to problems on the job. The result? Not only did this exec feel calmer, but her colleagues did, too. Everyone was happier, a win-win situation. Talk about improving relationships!
I want more “me” time. Sometimes, being over-stressed, multi-tasking and juggling is celebrated in our society. The person who can “do it all” gets the prize as he or she collapses over the finish line! Just as you might be advised to do more individual activities if too co-dependent with a spouse, so, too should you carve out time away from an “I’m so busy” mantra. Treat yourself to activity that’s divorced from stressors every now and then. Go for that walk, get a pedicure and/or massage, take five minutes out of your busy day to breathe and refocus. You may feel “guilty” about this kind of “cheating” at first, but these breaks will build your resilience in managing stress.
I want to honor what’s important to me. Listen to your inner voice: what are your core values? Once you are centered on what’s at the heart of your well-being – family, spirituality, creativity, health, or a combination of these and other values – you are better able to respond to life’s stressors differently. Clarity on your values helps you gain a better perspective on what is truly important and what are minor events. If family time and getting healthier are top priorities, look at how you can combine the two. Maybe leaving work at a certain time to go home for a walk with your family is the best thing to do. Will staying at work just a little longer really give you the benefits you think?
All of the above is easier said than done, but remember: You have choice in how you manage this relationship! To learn more, sign up to join our free tele-seminar “Dear Stress: Let’s Break Up on Tuesday, March 12, 2013, 7:15 PM EST – 8:15 PM EST (4:15 PM PST – 5:15 PM PST).
Over the past 18 years, Kelly has successfully coached business leaders and people from all walks of life to reach their highest potential. With a Master’s in counseling, professional coach and mediation certifications, and 20 years of Human Resources experience, she has successfully helped others define their dreams and create pathways to success. She is the creator and owner of 1 Smart Life, LLC a new style of personal coaching with a team of experts in all of life’s challenging areas.