It’s ironic that the most stressful week of the year for me so far was also the week when I delivered the second of our Happyworks Series workshops, aptly titled Stressworks. Well, it certainly meant I could put my own tools to the test, just to check they work. And I can confirm, they do!
So what do we mean by stress? Well in my case it was a mixture of dealing with some news I wasn’t prepared for, managing some tricky conversations, running from meeting to meeting, fire-fighting and, just to top it off, a good few arguments with technology at inopportune times. Aaarrrrggghhhh!!! The lovely people who came along to the workshop also recognised these things, adding in public transport, my mum and my kids to the mix (theirs, not mine!) The bottom line is, we all get stressed, and we can’t seem to choose when we do, it’s often when things just feel like they’re out of our control, we can’t do anything about it. Or can we?
Well actually we can, and those of you who’ve read my previous posts will know this. Stress is a choice, we just need to be able to separate our beliefs from our behaviour. Or better still, change our beliefs altogether. Easier said than done, sure, but there are a few things you can try. Here are the ones that went down particularly well with our Stressworks participants.
- Change the way you think
That voice in your head, what does it say to you? Does it tell you that you need to do better? That everything rests on this one thing? That you’ll never be able to get it? That everyone will laugh at you? That you should be able to cope better? Well no wonder you’re stressed! How much pressure can one person stand! Next time you catch yourself saying all these things, write down exactly what you hear in your head. Now ask yourself if you’d ever say those same things to anyone else. Probably not, unless you’re a particularly cruel and malicious person. Which exceptionally few of us truly are. So if you wouldn’t say it to anyone else, what makes it acceptable to say to yourself? Nothing. Now write down what you could say to yourself instead. Something that’s going to help you face the situation you’re currently in, not something that’s going to increase the pressure 1,000 fold. One of our participants was going to change “I should be better at this” to “I’d like to be better at this, and I enjoy learning so actually it’s an opportunity to grow.” Aaah! I feel more relaxed about it already.
- The Scale of Awfulness.
Personally my favourite tool, and this certainly helped me get things back together last week. Draw a line along a piece of paper and mark it with a 0 at one end and 100 on the other. Now think of the most terrible thing you have heard about on the news recently. Something truly awful. Sadly, there are enough to choose from. This is what you peg at 100 in terms of its awfulness. Now think about the current issue you’re facing. Where does that sit in comparison on the scale? Not likely above a 5 or so, right? Or even lower than that probably, as long as you still have your arms and legs. So how stressed do you feel about it now? There’s evidence to suggest that anything pegged below a 5 doesn’t trigger the stress response. So really, it’s an annoyance more than anything else. A bit rubbish, but not the end of the world. You can deal with it. Phew!
- F*ck it!
In fact, perhaps this is my favourite! And it’s as simple as it sounds. Just say “f*ck it!” How this works is that it tells your brain there’s actually no real drama, while giving you a very satisfying verbal outlet for your frustration, so even if the effect is only for a few seconds, it buys you a bit of time to see through the stress haze, and get back into competency mode where you can think clearly again. It often also has the added bonus effect of making you laugh, which is the best antidote to stress going. We had so much fun on Thursday telling each other what was really stressing us out, and then “f*ck it!” It kind of had an AA ring about it – “hello, I’m Sarah, I’ve had a horribly stressful week, but f*ck it!” – but it certainly sorted us all out and meant we all left smiling. Who knew stress could be so fun!
So thanks to those of you who came and helped make the evening so great. If you missed out I hope these simple tips are useful, and you can always join us on July 9th for our third and final (for now) workshop in the series, Balanceworks. We’ll be looking at how view your time and how you can get a better sense of work-life balance to regain some of that control in your life overall.