Stress. Pressure. Tension. Worry. Nerves. Whatever you call it, as beautiful human beings we’ve got it in all sizes and colours. A never-ending supply. Stress is a two-sided coin; on the one side it is an early warning and guidance system to ensure we attend to the things that matter most. On the other side it is expectations of ourselves on steroids, with no basis in reality. Wait! How does that happen?
We cannot eject stress completely from our lives; the parts of our bodies that generate stress do so for many important and good reasons. From being our moral compass to ensuring we stay tuned in to what is happening around us, (both physically and emotionally) these parts need to exist. Cortisol, adrenaline and the neural pathways that trigger them are unconscious and autonomous – to put it more simply…stress happens.
If we become better at naming stress when it is present, then we have a tool to manage it before it manages us. Think back to a stressful time in your week, how did your body feel? As an example, my blood pressure goes up, just enough to make the ring on my hand feel tight, my brain moves at a million rpms. Stress is in the house! Unlike fear, you cannot take stress out for coffee, and you cannot dance with stress either. Stress is situational, so you need to counter the energy it brings with kindness and compassion. You need to sit with stress, slow it down. This is an intentional act, deep, slow breathes are a great way to start. Once you have named it and started the process of de-escalating your body, you are in a better position to find well-being in the midst of it.
The next step is to attend to the story you are telling yourself about the stressful circumstance. If you have just received extra work files to complete from your boss, it’s understandable to have a narrative of “Why me?”. Sit with this for a moment and look a little deeper; is your body also responding to a silent narrative of “OMG, now they will find out I really can’t do this job!!!!”? This is very important to pay attention to, because this type of narrative creates a circumstance where you don’t feel you can ask for help. So, in addition to stress undermining your best self, it further prevents you from using your common sense, and your voice, to alleviate the problem, causing even more stress. Find out what you may be saying silently to yourself (think of it as the problem underneath the problem).
Deep breathing can help, but so can looking at a different perspective. Ask yourself “What’s the best that could happen?”. We can’t be positive all the time, that is not what this is about (no lipstick on pigs). This is a simple question meant to start your thinking in a new way that allows you to attend to what is most important in this situation. When we see something from a different perspective, we access more of what is needed to attend to it, and that is what you are really after. These are important steps to support yourself in your work, because when you are kinder to yourself you think clearer, and that may include advocating for yourself; “Love to look after these files, let’s discuss what needs to move off my plate in the short-term to make this happen.”
“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem”
~ Captain Jack Sparrow