My good friend, Dr. Tim Gardner, and I have been working on a unique Stress Management workshop for leaders. I had to laugh when Tim said to me, “Googling the word “stress” can be stressful!”
Was he ever right!
On the first results page you will discover that stress has been linked to:
- Heart attacks
- Autoimmune diseases
- Viral infections
- Certain cancers
This list doesn’t even touch workplace, home life, relationship problems, or death!
According the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress Survey, the majority of Americans are experiencing stress at a level that they know is harmful to them. The survey also revealed that while concerns related to money and work remain the top two stressors for Americans, family responsibilities have now moved into the top three. Generationally, in spite of their education, social connectedness, and global consciousness, Millennials report higher levels of stress than any other generation.
As an executive coach I have come to realize that stress is a normal part of life for humans. Humans are unique in the animal kingdom because we are conscious of our stress and can make decisions about it, whereas others in the animal kingdom just react to stress.
Consider the gazelle in Africa. The gazelle begins the day stress free, eating grass. Then, enter the lion to the story. The situation quickly changes for the gazelle and the chase is on. There are only two outcomes of this stressful situation. The first is that the gazelle becomes dinner and the stress ends for the gazelle. The second is that the gazelle acts, leaving the lion to choose another gazelle for its meal, and our hero goes back to grazing in a stress free environment. Either way, in just a few short minutes the stress ends for the gazelle. Unlike humans, the gazelle does not continue in its stress.
The Alphabet of Stress Elimination
Is there a way that you can eliminate your stress? Perhaps as humans we will never achieve the gazelle’s level of stress management, however, there are some things within your control to help eliminate stress.
Now, when I suggest this, my clients are quick to respond, “But Scott, if I don’t manage my stress, it´ll take over and I will lose control!” You might even be thinking the exact same thing. If so let me center your thoughts by taking you back in time.
Do you remember when you were a child? Recall when you were in first grade and life was care-free. All you had to worry about was learning the difference between a consonant and a vowel.
What if I told you that eliminating stress can be as easy as a first grader learning his/her vowels: AEIOU. Each of these letters represents a strategy that you can use to help reduced and even eliminate stress in your life.
- Avoid Negativity
I have no doubt that the stress in your life is hard, but is it possible that you are allowing yourself to believe that the stress is negative. Feeling the pressure of a project or an upcoming presentation is challenging, but what rewards will the outcome of your work bring you? Remind yourself of the “why” behind your work. The meaning and purpose the work is giving you. Encourage and motivate yourself with words of personal affirmation like, “You can do this!” Practice positivity for a week and see how your stress levels decrease. Choose to be positive.
- Evaluate Your Relationships
Think about your relationships. Which ones bring you joy and which ones are difficult and energy draining? What relationships are worth working on, and which are so hazardous that you need to just cut the ties? Choose to be with people who bring you joy and satisfaction.
- Identify Stressors
Can you articulate what is stressing you out and why? Could you write it down or tell someone about it? More often than not, we let ourselves wrestle with stress without clearly identifying what is stressing us out. Choose to name it so you can take action to deal with it.
- Organize Your Priorities
What is the biggest thing on your plate that needs to get done? Do that first. Get it out of the way and take care of the little tasks next. Prioritizing means to remember what is most important. If you are putting work before family time, try to see what would happen in your personal life and work life if you prioritize your family over your job. Choose to write down what is most important and just do it.
Today in our society we often pride ourselves in being busy. Let’s remember that busy is not a synonym to productivity. You can be busy without accomplishing anything. I bet you’ve experience this before just as I have in my own life. The same is true the other way around; you can be productive without having a busy, overwhelming schedule. Take a look at your calendar and think about what unnecessary commitments or tasks you have and find way to delegate the responsibility or just do away with it. Make time in your schedule to rest, read a book, or do an activity that you truly enjoy. You’ll be surprised to see how rest can rejuvenate you, increase your productivity, and reduce your stress. Choose to rest and rejuvenate.
These five stress eliminators are available to you as a leader because, unlike the gazelle, you can choose. You choose how to frame your leadership life.
I wish you all the best as you make choices to eliminate the stress in your life.
If you are interested in knowing how you can bring the Stress Management Workshop I referenced above send an email to info@DrScottLivingston.com and we will set up a time to talk.
Dr. Scott Livingston