When I was a young man, I avoided problems and stressful situations. I operated by the mentality that if I didn’t talk about it or think about it, the stress would disappear for a brief moment. Sound familiar?
As you can guess, and likely know first-hand, the stress would always come back bigger and more painful than when it began.
Think of stress as an allergy. To overcome an allergy, doctors slowly and habitually give their patients small doses of the allergen until they build an immunity to it. I could not walk in the woods or cut my grass today without the support from Dr. Imber, my favorite ENT Doctor. Stress is the same way. Your resilience grows with every obstacle you overcome.
The truth is, that while you can’t avoid stressful situations, you can learn to thrive in them. All you need are the proper coping mechanisms.
Here are a handful that I encourage you to try:
1. Eat your bullfrog first. Make a point to complete the most “difficult” or least appealing task first. The rest of your day will be more productive with it out of the way, and I promise it’s never as awful as you imagine it will be.
2. Get organized. Clean your desk, your office, or your house. Make your to-do list – then make another one. Plan your day, week, month, or your quarter. Just get all of those thoughts bouncing manically around your mind down on paper. Now breathe. Take a look at your lists, and choose six actionable (and realistic) tasks. Someone once told me that six was the magic number, but adjust as you see fit. Whatever number you choose, you better hold yourself accountable for completing them.
3. Callous your mind. In a previous article, I wrote about David Goggin’s theory of Callousing the Mind. Day to day, we tap into a very small percentage of what we’re capable of. We quit too early and too often. We’re tempted to listen to that weak voice in our heads that wants us to skip the pain and avoid the conflict at all costs. By callousing your mind, you’re choosing to ignore that voice. To keep going. To push your limits so that you may reach new heights. Remember the allergy analogy? As you push yourself, situations that were once stressful won’t even make you flinch.
4. Understand there are things you can’t control. Make lists of what you can control and what you can’t control. For example, you can control the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that you pour into a project, but you can’t control how others will react to your effort or if unforeseen circumstances will call for you to start over. Do your honest best every single day and let go of the things you can’t control.
5. Reach out to someone. While the tactics above will reframe the way you approach and think about stress, the truth is, there’s nothing quite like a good ol’ helping hand. I’ve discussed the importance of your network many times, when it comes to stress and your mental health, their support is more important than ever. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or navigating a new challenge, just ask for help.
Throughout my life, I’ve built a strong network of people that I can rely on for support and who know they can always rely on me. This is part of the reason I began Outside Insights! So our community can benefit from all of our collective insights. So tell me, how do you manage stress? I’d love to discuss what works for you.