If you're prone to getting stressed, even overwhelmed, many of my clients have found these tactics helpful.
Cut sources of stress. Where possible, limit your exposure to people, tasks, and situations likely to increase your stress.
Breathing. Take one slow deep breath, perhaps while saying to yourself, “In with the good air, out . . .with . . .the . . . bad.” Need another breath? Take one. Even if you do it three times, you've finished in less than a minute so your stress hasn't increased from taking much time from what you need to do.
Microbreak. This is another technique that's easy and not time-consuming. As soon as you start to feel stressed, nip it in the bud before the anxiety increases to the point where it’s tough to quell. A microbreak is a one-to-five-minute escape from what you’re doing that’s stressful to whatever would be pleasant: a quick chat, peek at your social media, or a walk, if only to the coffee machine.
A word about vacations. Sometimes, the benefits of days away are outweighed by the stresses of preparing, the vacation itself, and the pile at work and at home that await your return. Sure, if vacations work for you, great. But your ongoing stress level may be more reduced with breathing, microbreaks, and the following:
Distraction. When you have a worry and you've done all you can, distract yourself to something compelling enough to keep you from thinking about it.
Perspective. This holds the most potential for reducing your stress ongoing. The wise person puts the cause of their stress in perspective. For example, I’m listening to the new audiobook HotSeat, GE’s former CEO Jeff Immelt's memoir. Despite his having to make billion-dollar decisions every day amid heat from government, the media, employees, shareholders, and even world leaders, he lasted at GE for 35 years, 17 as CEO. If he had allowed himself to be unduly stressed ongoing, he probably wouldn’t have lasted that long and now still with the drive left to have become a partner at a major VC firm.
Your goal needs to be to care enough to do a good job but not care so much that it stresses you out, which probably would make you do a worse job and hurt your health and your relationships, professional and personal.
Some people’s stress-proneness is exacerbated by trauma.
For example, abuse or neglect by a parent or romantic partner can make a person anxious in relationships or reluctant to pursue one. Would it help to remind yourself that not everyone will treat you poorly and that you can boost your chances of a good relationship if there's something to improve about how you interact?
Or let's say you have a poor work history: You’ve been let go often and, even when you stick, you sense that you’re not inordinately valued. Should you try to gain a skill, adjust your attitude, request a change in your job description so it plays to your strengths and skirts your weaknesses? Look for another job? Be self-employed?
Or perhaps you’re afraid of becoming poor, even homeless. That fear is especially likely if your family of origin struggled or still is struggling. Are you doing all you want to cut your spending and increase income, whether in employment or by investing?
Stress is unavoidable and a moderate amount is motivating and energizing. But if you’re stress-prone, keeping it within bounds is key to the life well-led. Is there at least one idea among the aforementioned that could help you be more relaxed?
I read this aloud on YouTube.