People talk about stress all the time. We're stressed because we have too much to do, in too little time, with too few people we really like in a world that's become too complicated. When I'm under lots of stressful pressure I feel like I'm a wet towel being wrung by two giant hands and my sanity is dripping out.
There's lots you can do to fight back against stress. You can adjust your thinking skills, your coping responses, your thoughts and feelings or your inner world. Some tactics, like talking to a friend, are easy adjustments. Other tactics take more effort. Like Woody Allen you might need years of psychotherapy to change your inner world and even then you might still be a little fragile.
I believe having good thinking skills is the best way to fight stress. By thinking skills I mean knowing how to think and what action to take in stressful circumstances. Some people are born with the right thinking skills. Others are taught them by their parents and early environment. Most people, though, have to learn them as adults or do without.
Here are ideas I use with my coaching clients frequently.
Think about seeking support.
Some people cope with stress by seeking support. One operative thinking skill is a policy to have regular meetings with supportive people. Another thinking skill is the knee-jerk reaction to talk to a supportive friend when stress is evident. People with the wrong thinking skill often are the kind who insist on getting out of their situation on their own, without help.
Our egos have a lot to do with this. An out of control ego doesn't like to ask for help. It's subconsciously diminishing. In broad studies women are shown to be much more adept at seeking support. Men tend to try and do it on their own.
Manage your time arbitrarily.
Another thinking skill response to stress is good time management. One aspect of good time management is to base it on fundamental personal principles. The operative thinking skill is that the principles are in charge and anything you do must be in line with those principles. Few people have taken the time to decide
what their fundamental principles are and fewer yet have policies that are derivatives of their principles.
A quick idea to better time management is to create a "won't do" list and adhere to it arbitrarily. Don't take your time to do something or not do it because its sounds like the right thing to do. Rather only do things that fit your arbitrary lists. Here are a couple of items for your won't do list. Don't answer your phone before 10 am. Don't handle interruptions before 11am. Both of those policies are either right or wrong in any individual situation. But if you adhere to them arbitrarily without judgment and concentrate on getting important tasks done, instead of the allowing the interruption, you'll get a lot of important tasks done and never leave the office feeling like you didn't get anything done. The same logic suggests working out in the morning before you do anything else.
A third thinking skill that helps to fight stress is connectedness. People in organizations that have downsized tend not to feel connected because they know their organizational tie is actually tenuous. That's reality. The stress busting strategy is to get connected to organizations that have a reason for being that is important to you and will survive. Jobs used to be like that. Some still are.
The best way to get connected, when its not possible at work, is to do charitable or volunteer work you feel passionate about. Political organizations where you're part of a team working for a person, a concept or a principle can build great team spirit and offer connectedness. Charitable work directed at helping an oppressed or unlucky group offers the same feelings of connection.
That's three quick ideas you can use to fight the inevitable stress that goes along with living in the nineties. Don't try to incorporate too many new ideas at one time. That's stressful. Concentrate on making one change at a time and you'll do much better at getting stress hardy.
Jerome Shore is an Executive Coach in Toronto, Canada. Clients to look to Jerome for help with Marketing, Leadership and Stress Management. He can be reached at email@example.com or 1-416-787-5555.
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