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365 Ways to Get Results: #61 Slay the Stress Dragon in the Moment

You worry. You feel guilt. You blame. You agonize. You complain. All of these emotions conjure up stress regarding things you cannot control. But you know this. Yet you still stress over them. And worse yet, you lash out, withdraw or behave in a way that does not move you closer to your goals, costing you respect, relationships and peace.

Stress is the emotional and physical way we respond to pressure. It’s the body’s way of reacting to a challenge and preparing to meet a confrontation. It’s the mind’s way of saying, “Hey, I have space in my head that I could devote to productive behavior but I’d rather allow worry to take up squatter rights instead.”

Why do we do this? Because it’s habit and familiar – because making a lightning-fast judgment about something whether it is rational or not is easier than doing something we are not comfortable doing – creating a new habit.

At a minimum, stress can be caused by perceptions, thoughts, beliefs, emotion, life orientation, values, societal pressure, psychiatric health, and a variety of facets of culture. Stress costs people their health, happiness, and their productivity. It costs organizations clarity of vision, focus on high performance and a sustainable culture in the face of change.

Certain tactics are effective at relieving stress like exercise, activities and other distractions. But addressing the trigger of the stress head on in a rational, not judgmentally irrational way will best equip you to eliminate it.

Slay the Stress Dragon in the Moment

1. Write down the statement that plays over and over like a broken record in your head in your most judgmental voice. ‘Should’ statements are encouraged. “I should be in a better job.” “She should be more supportive.” “I should be happier.” “I shouldn’t be treated this way.” “I should not be where I am.” “They should value my performance more.”

Judgment statement: ____________________________________________________

2. Write words that describe how you “feel” about statement #1. “Hopeless,” “alone,” “angry,” “fearful,” “disappointed,” “depressed,” “frustrated.”

Makes me feel: ___________________________________________________

3. Write words that describe how you “behave” when you feel that way. “Cry,” “Listless,” “irrational,” “short tempered,” “withdrawn.” (Of course behaving this way brings on more stress.)

Then I behave: ____________________________________________________

4. Reverse the statement in #1 (“should” to “shouldn’t” or shouldn’t” to “should”). Precede it with “At this moment…” and follow it with a “because…” statement.

Reverse Statement: At this moment, _____________________________
because ____________________________________

5. Write words that describe how you “feel” about statement in #4. “Open,” “content,” “relieved,” “alive,” “compromising.”

Makes me feel: ___________________________________________________

6. Write words that describe how you “behave” when you feel this way. “Be nicer,” “be patient with myself and others,” “pause and respond instead of react,” “show love.”

Now I can: ____________________________________________________

7. How will you remember to ask yourself reverse “At this moment – because” statements?

It is difficult in the heat of a contemptuous moment or after a prolonged period of stressful perseveration to catch yourself and execute an exercise that will deliver peace and contentment. At that point a lightning storm is sending every available emotion in your head to the bunkers to take cover. So I tell my clients to place some sort of a reminder either on their desk, in their car, in their kitchen or somewhere they frequent to remind them that in order to hear sweet music in their heads, they need to be able to take out the broken message and put in a new one. That reminder could be on a Post-it note. It could be an image of a broken CD. It could be something from your past that signifies wisdom. One of my clients leaves a flashlight next to his computer monitor to remember to “put the light of reason on” when the darkness of stress takes over.

Don’t let stress take up space in your head. Slay it with reason. Start now!

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Mary Lee Gannon is the president of StartingOverNow.com – Leading Productivity Solutions for People and Organizations. With more than 16 years of experience as a CEO of organizations with up to $26 million in assets, Mary Lee consults with businesses on strategy. She is a graduate of The Duquesne University Professional Coaching Program and an alumnus of the 2010 Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital Coaching in Medicine & Leadership Conference. Her personal urnaround came as a stay-at-home mother with four children under seven-years-old who endured a divorce that took she and the children from the country club life to public assistance from where she earned success to support her family. Services include: Workshops, Meeting Facilitation, Coaching, Webinars, Speaking and Management Consulting. Areas of Specialty: Strategic Planning / Board Development / Healthcare / Public Relations / Goal Setting / Meeting Facilitation / Training / Leadership / Time Management / Life/Career Transition. Her book “Starting Over – 25 Rules for When You’ve Bottomed Out” is available in bookstores or at Amazon. Get her FREE ebook – “Grow Productivity – A Leader’s Toolbox” on her web site at www.StartingOverNow.com.