So tell me, what’s stressing you out these days? Your kids’ sports and/or dance schedules? Figuring out what’s for supper tonight? Taking care of your aging parents?
For me, it’s the lengthy and on-going list of things I need to do for my house, family (including pets), and writing.
The other day when my personal assistant Super Betty (If you don’t know the origin of Super Betty, click here.) noticed me reading my own blog post on productivity in order to get a handle on my to-do list, she informed me she knows a thing or two about stress management. Of course she does. That’s why I invented hired her.
For starters, Super Betty says it’s important to:
Stress Management Tactic #1: Know Thy Enemy
Toward that end, she quickly spouted several definitions of stress.
- A state of mental or emotional strain resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances
- The sense of having little or no control
- A condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources they are able to mobilize
Definition, shmefinition, I whined. Stress shuts me down. “It’s like inertia,” I told her. For emphasis, I recited its remembered-from-high-school-science-class definition: “An object at rest will remain at rest until acted upon by another force.”
“When I experience stress-inertia,” I told Super Betty, “I lock up and can’t get anything done.”
Know what Super Betty said to that?
Stress Management Tactic #2: In times of stress-induced inertia, baby steps are your best friend.
When I asked what kind of baby steps, what do you know, she gave me a whole list!
- Confession: Call, text, or email a friend about your disquiet. Their reaction—compassion, helpful ideas, offers of assistance—can really help. Even if all your friend does is simply listen, sharing a burden has a magical way of lightening it. It might even deepen your friendship when you drop the “My life is dipped in liquid gold and rolled in sprinkles” façade.
- Make a list, check it twice: According to Psychology Today, “You only feel stressed when you believe that you lack the resources to manage a threat or challenge.” To combat this feeling, get out pen and paper and list your resources. Write down the pertinent skills you possess. Mentally go through your contacts in search of people who might willing to help (for the experience, for money, or perhaps for barter). If your deadline is two months away, praise God! You have the gift of time.
- Adjust your attitude. Super Betty says there are actually two very different stress mindsets: Stress saps me. Stress improves me. One is negative and exhausting. One is positive and hopeful. Make it a point to consider how your stressful situation might make you better. If your future is uncertain, frame the ambiguity as an exciting adventure or a fascinating mystery, instead of something to fear. Think of it as a way to build faith, trust, or courage.
- Also, instead of saying, “I have to such-and-such,” say, “I get to such-and-such.” Practicing gratitude tends to suck the negativity right out of your mindset.
Super Betty saved her favorite counsel—also from Psychology Today—for last.
Stress Management Tactic #3: Re-define “stress.”
“Studies show that helping people see certain experiences—such as final exams—as demanding rather than dire, protects them from the negative effects of stress while delivering its positive effects, especially focused attention and speedier information processing. Changing the stress mindset not only minimizes the effects of stress, studies show it enhances performance and productivity.”
“Demanding rather than dire…” Now there’s a reality check.
Super Betty’s stress management suggestions made every single monkey on my back fly away, including the ones I put there.
Her counsel also helped me realize, though Super Betty is a super woman, I don’t have to be.