Stress Less for Success
Let’s consider a potential scenario …
You got up late in the morning because you forgot to change your alarm setting to “On.” You managed to get to work on time, but only had a moment to grab a cup of coffee for your breakfast.
One of your employees was late, again, and held up a critical meeting with the whole team. You felt the rest of the staff was blaming you for their teammate’s tardiness.
You tackled as much work as you could during the day, but you certainly weren’t on top of your full existing task list—and more work is looming!
When you got home your spouse was exhausted from their own job and from watching the kids after they got home school—with way too much energy to burn.
Dinner was takeout and not very good, but no one had the bandwidth to cook.
Then there were kids’ activities to attend and a messy bedtime ritual where everyone got testy.
At 1:00 am you found yourself lying in bed wide awake thinking about everything that needs to get done tomorrow and wondering how in the world you were going to cope.
Does any of this sound familiar? You may have experiences like this in your day, or maybe something much worse. Add all of this up with our current pandemic situation and it equals an impressive amount of STRESS.
What does stress do to us?
“If we shove our feelings to the dusty corners of our brains, they will only sit, fester, and emerge as stress, or manifest themselves in the form of illness. Or they will spring forth in an uncontrolled manner and impact those around us.”– Juli Geske Peer, 5 Senses for Success
One of the major reasons behind writing my book, 5 Senses for Success, Strategies to Thrive in Any Arena, was a sincere desire to alleviate stress and pain so that you can live a life that frees you to achieve your goals and connect fully with those you encounter. Stress can be a major barrier to success, but it is a barrier we can surmount.
Before we can address a problem we need to understand what it is and why it is important to do something about it. The renowned Mayo Clinic breaks down unmanaged stress into common effects on our Body, our Mood, and our Behavior. The body of a person under stress, for example, may be fatigued, have sleep issues, headaches, or a low libido. Our mood can become restless, unmotivated, sad, or even angry. Our behavior might display social withdrawal or turn to drug and alcohol abuse as a coping mechanism.
Stress is also a major factor in some of our most common health issues such as headaches, obesity, heart disease, depression, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. These are just some of the pitfalls of mounting stress in our lives. It is nearly impossible to find inner peace and fulfillment when we are carrying the extra burdens of stress.
Where is all this stress coming from?
We don’t have to conduct deep research to see where stressors occur. Life is stressful with our many duties and commitments to family, work, and community. Our daily news is chock-full of negative stories that grab and hold our attention, from climate change to COVID to political division, and beyond. Our health challenges can be overwhelming. Many people have concerns for how they will financially manage their commitments, a major stress factor, and financial management is noted as one of the top 5 reasons for couples divorcing.
But wait, there’s more …
Like it or not, we have a built-in ‘negativity bias.’ In other words, human beings are impacted far more by negative events than positive ones. After experiencing both positive and negative occurrences throughout the day, we continue to dwell on the negative longer. We also respond more emotionally than rationally.
But we should not be so hard on ourselves for noting the negative—we have long been wired this way. From our earliest existence, we developed a response system to danger or perceived danger. Our ’sympathetic system’ takes charge and “we actually lose the ability to access our rational brain, or the prefrontal cortex.” (5 Senses for Success).
So what are we going to do about all of this?
How do I manage the stress in my life?
“The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.”– Abraham Maslow
Guess what? Our experience is not unique. Throughout time, there have been major stressful events people have managed to navigate. What if today, we alter our perspective and look at our stressful times as unique opportunities to rise above and nurture our resilience? COVID, for example, has forced us to think about who we are, what we do, and what we want to be.
Separate the big from the small
If there are small things that continue to eat away at your self-peace, here are a few things you might try to ease the stress reaction:
- Get some physical activity. Chemical endorphins resulting from moving our bodies are very powerful mood changers.
- Spend time with a friend or family member. Sharing what’s on your mind can provide release and asking for feedback can give you a new perspective. And don’t forget physical touch as a healer. A welcomed hug can lower blood pressure through the release of the anti-stress hormone oxytocin (Kase, 2015).
- Distract your mind with music, an enjoyable book or a hobby.
- Make a conscious effort to focus on the good.
All stress is not the same
If you are struggling with the stress in your life and feeling thoughts of hopelessness, it may be time to seek professional help. October 10th was Mental Health Awareness Day and in May of each year the US designates a whole month to awareness. However, mental health care is an everyday event.
Managing mental health challenges is not uncommon, nor is it anything to be ashamed of. The CDC tells us mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States.
More than 50% will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime. And …1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.
Here is a link to MentalHealth.gov to find immediate help resources.
And, finally, determine what is in your control
“Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow”-Swedish Proverb
Deciding what is and isn’t in your power to control or alter is a helpful way to manage daily stress. It takes mindfulness to pause your immediate reaction and turn it into careful reflection.
In my scenario at the beginning of this blog you cannot go back and set the clock for yesterday but you can leave yourself a note on the bedside table to check it before lights out. You can also have some quick-grab food items in your cupboard or fridge for the days that you do get behind.
As for the employee that has come in late once again. It may be time for a scheduled conversation to discover what is creating the tardiness. We never really know what another person is going through unless we ask. Perhaps they are a parent with a newborn or a sick child at home that keeps them up at night. Maybe their regular bus route to work has changed and it is difficult to make timely connections. Whatever the reason, it is possible to listen and help brainstorm some solutions so the whole team is not affected by the situation.
It is not possible to control how tired your spouse was when you both got home from work, nor how much energy the kids needed to release when they came home from school. So try not to add that to the stress pile. Instead, work on controlling your reaction to their emotional states. Empathy, humor, and acceptance are some of the tools you have to control what you can. Maybe a simple meal cooked as a family together could create a lighter atmosphere and spread out the chores.
Remember, you don’t have to be perfect to find success in managing stress. You don’t even have to come close. But it does help if you take care of yourself.
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For more about engaging all the senses that can provide support for your journey to success, please take a moment to explore my newly published book, 5 Senses for Success: Strategies to Thrive in Any Arena. I am very proud to share these approaches and truly achievable practices that were born out of my own life and career experiences and strategic research. Each of us has it within us to achieve success and create healthier relationships within ourselves and with others.
Here is a link for more information. https://juligeskepeer.com/5-senses-for-success
Juli Geske Peer is a leadership and relationship practitioner whose professional credentials include two academic degrees, mediator training, train-the-trainer certification, two coaching certifications, numerous other learning and certification accomplishments, and now, author!