In January 2016 I went through a fairly significant period of change in my life. Multiple changes that were, for the best part, unplanned and unexpected. Emotions were raw. There was the added pressure of time. To say it was challenging would be an understatement. I will happily admit that there were moments where I felt overwhelmed and even, dare I say it, stressed. (Yes, I know. I’m a Life Coach. But even us Life Coaches get stressed on occasion. We are still human after all…)
Finding a new apartment and moving out of my old apartment was a particularly ‘fun’ part of this journey. Viewing properties, signing rental and utility contracts all over town, shopping for an entire apartment’s worth of furniture, packing, transporting and unpacking belongings from the old apartment (3 car loads. Single-handedly. Did someone say martyr?), getting the utilities individually connected and managing the furniture delivery, all within a restricted 5 day period, was a mad rush to say the least.
I remember one particular day where I unashamedly had a mini melt-down – the day I had to leave my old apartment. Everything had been planned around this day. The furniture delivery. The utility connections. Everything. My emotional state was a bit delicate to begin with and this coupled with seemingly endless insomnia…. I was already on shaky ground. So when moving-day came and the signed tenancy agreement (which I was promised 2 days before) was still nowhere to be seen – panic set in.
Images of being homeless and aimlessly wandering the streets of Dubai for all eternity began to circle my mind. Even the thought of being forced to find refuge with a herd of camels popped in there at one point.
Of course, as it normally happens, everything turned out OK in the end. The tenancy agreement finally showed up later that day. The furniture was delivered as planned. The water, electricity and AC were connected on time. (The gas and phone line were delayed but that was OK). And most importantly, I didn’t have to seek refuge with a bunch of camels. Basically – I got myself into a state completely unnecessarily.
And this is when hindsight is a blessing. It gives us the opportunity to assess what actually happened: what worked, what didn’t work, and what we need to do differently next time. Taking what I learnt from my own little ‘episode’, here is a list of ways you can start to effectively manage your own stress levels – starting right now:
1) Be realistic
One of the problems with stress is that it feeds worst-case scenario thinking. In my case, being homeless surrounded by camels. Clearly, this would never have happened. I could have easily stayed with a friend or booked a hotel room.
Let’s take the stress of meeting a work deadline. The fear of missing the deadline can lead to thoughts of being fired, having no money, losing the car, the house, your spouse and kids. Everything. You’ve gone from working towards a deadline to being destitute, alone and living on the streets in about 30 seconds. Now is the time to get real. What’s the most likely thing to happen if you miss the deadline? Chances are you will simply be asked what’s the delay. You might get a stern word from your boss – but you’re strong enough to cope with that, right? Chances are, like all of the other times you have been stressed before, things will turn out OK. Afterall, you’re still alive, aren’t you?
2) Change your perception of the problem
It’s not really the problem that’s the problem. It’s your perception of the problem that’s the problem. That’s what’s causing you the stress. What meaning are you giving to the situation in front of you? Is it an opportunity to mess up and fail? Or is it an opportunity for you to grow and learn? What are the stressors in your life highlighting to you that you need to work on or change?
3) Anticipate the stress
One of the reasons I was stressed was that I hadn’t planned for things to go wrong. I hadn’t asked any of my friends if I could stay with them if I needed to. I hadn’t packed a suitcase full of everything I would need in case I needed somewhere else to stay. I hadn’t arranged or spoken to the furniture delivery men about a plan B. If I had done this, then my stress could have been reduced. Take a look at the areas in your life where you habitually feel stress and ask yourself, “What measures or plans can I put in place to reduce the level of stress I experience in this scenario in the future?”. (I’d also like to add here that if one area is consistently causing you stress (e.g. your job) maybe it’s a sign to take action and make a change).
4) Ground yourself
Stress is normally a fear of something going wrong in the future. It’s important to recognise that whatever it is you are imagining to go wrong is just that – your imagination. Now, as far as I know, we haven’t learnt the ability to predict the future yet. So for the sake of your sanity, stop trying to. Imagining all the various possible outcomes of something going wrong is not only pointless but it increases stress.
The process of grounding is a technique to help you get out of your imaginary future and into the reality of the present moment. Whenever you find your mind in overdrive with all of the potential outcomes of a given situation, do the following:
- Think about 5 things you can see in your present environment. Look at them in detail. Think about the colour, size, shape etc.
- Think about 4 things you can hear, focusing on their volume, type of sound, pitch etc.
- Find 3 things you can touch. Touch them and really pay attention to their texture
- Find 2 things you can smell. Maybe a cup of coffee or some flowers, and sniff away!
- Take 1-5 slow deep breaths. As you breathe in, shift the focus away from your thoughts and focus on the physical sensations in your body that arise when you breathe deeply. Notice how your lungs and muscles in your rib cage feel when they expand. Feel the air fill your lungs. Observe what else happens in your body and where. Do this for a couple of minutes and notice how both your mind and body instantly become calmer.
Repeat the process until you feel grounded and back in the present. Notice what is ‘right now’ and how differently you feel about your imaginary future… it doesn’t feel so real now, does it?
5) Know your triggers
I recognised from my ‘episode’ I was triggered by 2 things: 1) an already heightened emotional state and 2) things not going according to plan. So, what can be learnt from this? Firstly, before even attempting to do something potentially stressful, it’s important to make sure you are emotionally grounded. If you have to do something urgently in a heightened state of emotion, don’t be a martyr. Find someone to help you, even if you have to pay them. Your mental health is worth it.
Secondly, just because things may not go to plan, it’s not the end of the world. Life as we know it doesn’t suddenly implode just because the delivery men can’t deliver the furniture on the agreed day. Having the flexibility to adapt to unexpected change is the key to leading a stress-free life.
6) Get some exercise
Research has shown that even just a 3-minute burst of exercise can help reduce stress levels. If you can, take a break and go for a brisk walk around the block. Failing that, sneaking into an unused meeting room and doing 3 minutes of fast jumping jacks can really get the blood pumping. Just make sure you lock the door first…
7) Find a role model
Seek out someone who handles stress really well and model them. Watch how they behave in potentially stressful situations. Ask them for tips on how to stay calm and, if possible, to mentor you.
8) Be honest with yourself
Do you regularly get stressed, even at the smallest of things? It could be because on a subconscious level, you’re addicted to stress. Having problems and stress in your life, makes you feel significant. You equate busyness and stress with importance. If your work, life and problems weren’t important, why would you get stressed about it? Be brutally honest with yourself – does being stressed give you a sense of significance? Does it get you more attention at work or home? If this is the case, perhaps it’s time to let go of this habit and “get your need for significance met for doing something positive – rather than for your problems”.http://humanelevation.tonyrobbins.com/blog/mind-and-spirit/how-do-you-handle-stress
How do you manage your stress levels? If you would like to share your own stress management experiences, please feel free to leave a comment below!
For any further advice or tips on how to manage the stress in your life, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to share how you manage your stress, please feel free to leave a comment below!
About the Author
Zeta Yarwood is recognised as a leading Career Coach and NLP Life Coach in Dubai, helping individuals across the world to achieve success in all areas of their lives. With a degree in Psychology and over 10 years’ experience in coaching, management and recruitment – working for multinational companies and award-winning recruitment firms – Zeta is an expert in unlocking human potential. Passionate about helping people discover their strengths, talents and motivation, Zeta lives to inspire others to dream big and create the life and career they really want.