Ask anyone who knows me well, and they will tell you that I tend to get stressed out pretty regularly. Like everyone else I know, I’m busy and have a lot of commitments, so things tend to pile up if I’m not on top of my game all the time.
I admit that I also enjoy having constant control of my surroundings, work flow and schedule, which probably makes the stress a little more prominent. But, at the end of the day, I am a firm believer that the daily stress I experience helps push me to action and makes me more productive.
Having said that, I certainly recognize that there is a very thin line between a moderate amount of stress that results in a favorable outcome, and a level of stress that is oppressive and unproductive. None of us want our levels of stress to reach that point, but sometimes it seems impossible to control. And once you hit that curve, it’s hard not to crash.
In my experience, the best way to deal with stress is to keep it at a manageable level (one that produces action), be able to recognize when it starts to tip the scale to the overwhelming level, and have a plan for pushing it back where it belongs. Here is a simple 4-step process that I use to manage my daily stress level.
Step 1. Know Your Triggers
A huge part of stress management is knowing yourself and the factors that contribute to stress in your life. For me, it usually comes back to feeling like I’m losing control – an unexpected barrage of emails, a sick child and an unplanned doctor’s appointment, a technology challenge, or anything that disrupts my carefully planned day.
Look at recent stressful situations in your life and note the common factors that contributed to accelerating the stress.
Step 2. Face It Head On
Once my triggers have hit, I immediately move to a plan of action to regain control. Sometimes, alleviating the stress is as easy as taking immediate action – reading and filing emails, delegating work to a subcontractor, or switching to a backup computer. In these situations, the best thing you can do is act fast and move on.
If the situation requires some more finessing, it usually helps to have a plan for managing the unexpected. If you’re able to maintain some flexibility in your outlook and be realistic in expectations for yourself, you will find it much easier to create a plan for addressing and conquering the stress.
Step 3. Recognize Worry
Stress and worry are two very different things, although they go hand-in-hand for many of us. Excessive worrying can cause increased stress, but worry is typically something that creates self-imposed anxiety and it’s usually unnecessary.
Practice controlling the worry by focusing on the causes of stress, putting it in perspective and taking specific action to eliminate it.
Step 4. Let It Go
Once you’ve identified the trigger, acknowledged the cause of your added stress and formulated a plan to manage the situation, it’s time to move on. Don’t let the stress fester and multiply, and start a new cycle.
And keep in mind that you always have a choice. You can choose how you handle the stress and even what causes stress in your life. Working to keep things in perspective will help you to move past stressful situations without letting them derail you.
How do you manage everyday stress? What helps you keep everything in perspective?
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