There is no way to completely eliminate stress. Regardless of the job you do or do not have, your income level, where you live, or your responsibilities, you will experience stress. Finding ways to manage the stress to create an outcome that results in a healthy state of mind is important to reaching your highest level outcomes.
The most important aspect of stress management is having some type of plan for dealing with acute stressors and for long-term situations that cause stress.
So what’s your plan?
Try one or more of these when you find yourself in an acutely stressful situation. These can occur when things occur that you did not expect or have planned for. Acute stressors tend to appear more often if you do not have an adequate plan in place that takes all factors into consideration.
Turn off the notifications on your phone and email.
If your phone or computer is constantly dinging and binging at you all day and night you are operating in a reactionary way to others requests. Perhaps that’s your job. Many times, though, you simply haven’t thought of a better way to deal with necessary demands for your time and energy.
If you are in an acutely stressful situation, and you can turn things off to make to create some distance between you and the demands. Make the world quiet for a moment so you can switch on your highest level thinking.
Appreciation and gratitude are the antidotes for anxiety and anger. Many times we feel frustration and stress because we want things to be different then what they are.
Stopping to appreciate someone or something will help switch on your higher level thinking and immediately improve your decision making capabilities.
Stop. Breathe. Store.
Sometimes things occur and we feel as though we need to address them immediately. Many times, however, the proper response is no response, at the moment. When you feel your blood pressure rising, try this method.
Take several deep breathes.
Slowly breathe in through your nose for a count of 8, hold it for a count of 4, then breathe out for a count of 8. This will reduce the pressure on your amygdala (the almond-shaped gland in your brain that creates that flight, fight, freeze or appease impulse) and will switch on your pre-frontal cortex (the CEO or decision making part of your brain).
Does the situation that is causing you acute stress need your immediate attention or can you store the data that is coming in for you to think about later when you have some distance from it and time to figure out a long-term rather than a short-term solution for it.
Thoracic extension: Put your hands behind your head and bend your upper body over your chair’s back as far as possible. Draw your shoulder blades together and hold for two seconds. Release. Repeat eight times.
Hip-flexor stretch: Place one foot on a chair and lean forward while extending your arms overhead. Gently arch your back while moving your arms (keep them straight) back slightly. Hold for two seconds. Do eight reps.
Break it down.
If the acute stressor is of a significant size when it presents itself, break it down into small pieces and tackle the most impactful one, first. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “How do you eat an elephant?”, one bite at a time, of course.
The best way to increase your ability to manage stress effectively can be getting some sort of regular exercise. Even a short walk, 3x a week, can make a big difference over time. Creating a habit of moving more and sitting less can help.
Look at your food as a source of energy. The more nutritious the food item, the more it will give you energy. The lower nutritional value the less long-term energy for your day it will provide. Foods that have been identified as “brain food”… good for your cognitive abilities:
The big picture.
Create a strong understanding of why you are doing what you are doing. Ask yourself regularly why you are doing what you are doing. What are the outcomes you want to achieve long-term from the activities you are participating in? How does what you are doing serve you to reach those outcomes?
In my popular keynote Embracing the Pressure When the Pressure is On, here are some tools and tactics that might be helpful to you as well: