Deal with what stresses you (ignoring things doesn’t make them disappear)

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Note: this is Part 2 of a four-parts article about reducing your stress load.  In Part 1, we explored how to prevent stress build-up.  Today, we deal with what is, face on, instead of ignoring it and hoping it will  disappear. Because closing your eyes, wishing stress would disappear doesn’t work, any more than closing your eyes as you’re about to cross a busy intersection won’t make traffic disappear.

Facing stress: address reality.  Confronting the reality of your stress load is about making realistic decisions based on the level of importance, relevance and control you have over something stressful.  Whether it’s a pressing deadline, a difficult client (or colleague, boss, or friend) or simply a life so busy it’s bursting at the seams, we need to address it – aware that sooner is better, before it has time to fester.  Easy to say, but not as easy to deal with, so here are a few questions to help you address and deal with stressful situations, events and people.

Should you deal with this situation?  A few questions

  • How much does this really matter?  Maybe it’s pressing deadline, but it’s one of many in a week, and in the bigger picture, it really doesn’t matter much.  On a scale of 0 to 10, how much does this matter?  How much does it matter, relative to other pressing demands?  Believing that everything is a priority means that nothing is a priority.
  • Does this belong to you?  Maybe your plate is overfull, because people are filling yours with the overflow of theirs.  No, it’s not your responsibility to bake 24 perfect cupcakes for the office party – unless you want to and it’s fun for you.  If it doesn’t belong to you, say no, so you can say yes to a better life.
  • Are you trying to force life to be perfect?  Life isn’t perfect; neither are people (including you and me). Days aren’t perfect.  So stop trying so hard to make everybody and everything perfect, and be aware that the alternative to perfection isn’t failure, it’s progress.  Doing something at 5, 10 or 50% is always better than doing nothing at all.
  • If you don’t deal with it, what are the costs on your livelihood or your life? For instance, not dealing with a disrespectful colleague could allow a situation to escalate to the point where it affects your health or your work.  If this costing you sleep or ulcers, that’s a real cost on your health.
  • If you ignore it, how likely is this going to fade out or disappear?  If your busy times are cyclical (i.e. yearend), there is an end in sight.  But if you’ve been working 50-60-70 hours a week for months with no sign of slowing down, open your eyes wide and start de-cluttering.  What’s not essential that you can let go?  What can you delegate?  Is there someone you can hire to do this?
  • Is this under your control? If your supervisor is a micro-manager from hell, his/her behaviour is not under your control, so it’s time to consider realistic options.  Sometimes, letting go and exiting a situation is the best and least costly way to deal with something!

Deal with stressful situations NOW. Unless you deal with stressful situations, they won’t disappear.  Nothing will change. In a year from now, you’ll be in exactly the same situations, only a year older and more exhausted. If this is not the way you want to live, then you’ll have to ask yourself these questions and start decluttering your life from unnecessary stressors, one day at a time, taking small steps.  And within a few weeks, your life will feel less overwhelming, lighter, and you’ll feel happier.

In my next blog (part 3 on reducing stress), we’ll explore how to relax and let go of stress, with simple, user-friendly strategies.

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