With April being Stress Awareness Month, I wanted to write about how people can de-stress their lives with some simple adjustments. In today’s fast-paced world of doing it all so you can have it all, I don’t know anyone who escapes stress. There will always be pressure, looming deadlines, competing priorities and challenging relationships to navigate, all of which contribute to stress.
If everyone experiences these things, then why do some people seem to handle everything well while others seem to be overwhelmed by weather, traffic or a bad hair day? First, there are some genetic factors that account for those who are just more laid back than others. Dubbed Type-B personalities, these people seem to navigate through stress easier than the more tense, always-striving Type-A personalities. As more research is being done on genetics, promising outcomes show that it may be possible to change some genetics, but this is not available to the average person yet. Since you are, at least for now, stuck with the genetics you were born with, here are some things you might be able to do to manage the inevitable stress you are going to experience.
- Perfectionism: Many people add undue stress by believing that they must do everything they do to perfection—an impossible goal to achieve. As a recovering Type-A personality, I used to always be in competition, trying to be the best at everything I did. When I inevitably fell short, it created a great deal of unnecessary stress in my life. (I can still remember the one B I have on my master’s program transcripts.) I now find it best to focus on being really good at the things that are important to me, good enough at the other things I do and releasing the desire to excel in things I really don’t care about.
- Procrastination: There are two ways procrastination can create stress in your life. One way includes procrastinating because you are allowing yourself to become overwhelmed, you are focusing on other priorities or you are being plagued by self-sabotage. The other is when you benefit from procrastination, but you bow to the popular opinion that procrastination is inherently bad. In the first case, it will help you to understand what gets in the way of you focusing on the task at hand and just doing it. In the case of the other, you benefit by procrastinating because you are wired to focus best when deadlines are close. You need stress to perform at your best. If this is true for you, you can begin framing procrastination as a tool for your success rather than a bad habit.
- Priorities: With so many tasks on our to-do list, it is easy to lose sight of what’s most important, resulting in focusing on what’s next instead. Everything can’t be a priority. You need to take time to decide what is most important for your ultimate goals. You might find that what you think is most important because of the time factor isn’t what’s most important at all. Nothing can pile on the stress more than always completing the menial daily tasks without finding the time to complete the important ones.
- Pushback: I have found the work of Byron Katie to inform a lot of what I do, especially her book, Loving What Is. She talks about embracing what happens in our lives simply because it’s happened. There’s no point railing against things that have already occurred; you can’t turn back the clock to get a different outcome. Rather than stress about what’s already happened, find a way to embrace it as part of your journey.
- Competition: As a former Type-A personality, I love competition, but I’ve learned to compete the right way. I no longer compare myself to others. Well, at least when I do, I recognize it, and switch to this way instead: I compete against my former self. In other words, am I better today than I was yesterday or last week? This is a much healthier competition. It’s one I often win, and when I don’t, I know that, with introspection and correction, I can win the competition next time.
- Control: In my work with my clients, I find people create a lot of stress for themselves by focusing on the people and things in their life they don’t control. They feel frustrated because things are not going according to their plans, whether it’s situations or people not matching up to how they want reality to be. This is a sure recipe for stress. When you get stressed over things you have no control over, it’s time to focus on the one thing you do control—yourself.
- Introspection: It will be difficult to manage stress without this last step. Being able to evaluate your role in your own stress and what you need to do differently is crucial in de-stressing your life. You have the ability to change what you do and what you think. This may not sound like much, but it is the key to de-stressing. Many people add to their stress when they always look outside of themselves for explanations as to why they are experiencing stress. Once you place your focus on yourself, you are reclaiming your power, which immediately reduces your stress.
If you are interested in learning more about de-stressing your life, book a complimentary discovery call with me to see if a few counseling or coaching sessions will benefit you. You can book here.