Modern Day Stress Management

stress managementLast month I reflected on the way so many of us live our lives.  It’s fast paced, complicated and often stressful.  In my opinion, if advertising companies were looking for the laid back Aussie to feature in a tourism campaign, they’d have far fewer to chose from compared to 30 years ago.   Expectations are high these days.

In last month’s article I outlined some stress management strategies that I thought you might find useful in dealing with this new normal – avoiding comparisons, executing the process and debunking our myths.

This month I have another three stress management strategies but this time I have tailored them to Christmas.  As we are now well and truly in the thick of silly season, its worthwhile taking a few deep breaths and keeping in mind the following:

  • 2014 will come.  You don’t have to get everything done by Christmas.  Prioritise!

You’ve heard your friends say “we must catch up before Christmas”.  I know, I know, it’s all about getting in to the Christmas spirit and sharing the season with friends.  But sometimes it’s as if the world is scheduled to end on Christmas day.  We must catch up before Christmas!  If you have lots of friends this can mean a lot of socialising.  There can be a whole bunch of things that for one reason or another we decide must be done by Christmas.  With this attitude we run the risk of overloading ourselves with to dos.  Before you know it, rather than enjoying the lead up Christmas, we are so stressed we want it to be over.  So my advice is just be realistic and prioritise.  What really has to be done before Christmas and what can wait?  Whilst it might be nice to catch up with all your friends, can you realistically see everyone before Christmas?  Probably not, and guess what, they’ll still be around to catch up with post Christmas.

  • Pick your battles.  Most things aren’t as bad as you think

Have you ever seen someone get really worked up about something trivial?   You’ve looked at them with incredulity haven’t you?  Why on earth are they letting that person or that thing get to them?  They have decided to go into battle on something so minor.

It’s getting to them because it triggers something in them that it doesn’t trigger in you.  The person who gets them worked up might remind them of someone from their past.  Their behaviour might be the same behaviour that drove them mad as a child.

Whilst today we might be looking perplexed at that other person, on another day it could be us that is getting worked up needlessly.  Except we might not realise it when it happens.  We’ll pick a fight over something trivial and because we are so immersed in the seriousness of our own life, we won’t immediately notice what we are doing.

My challenge to you is to make a mental note that you will, from now on, pull yourself up when you do notice that you are getting worked up over something trivial.  Try as much as you can to move out of an emotional state and into a ‘thinking’ state and put the issue in context.  Try to understand what triggered your reaction and look at the issue side by side with the big issues like the strength of your relationship or your health.  Most issues won’t even register in the same ball park of importance.  Most of the things we worry about don’t happen and if they do they usually have much less impact on our life than we imagine.

This will help you get into a position where you can start to very wisely pick your battles.  There is a time to get worked up over things but a wise person makes sure it’s things that really count.  Otherwise when time comes you won’t be taken seriously.

  • Let go of the uncontrollable

Part of the art of picking your battles is deciding what you have control over and what you don’t.  You’ve heard people say “but it’s the principle of the matter”.  Often this is said in situations that either aren’t worth the fight or are out of your control.   “I will not allow the council to do this.  It’s the principle of the matter”.

The fact is there is simply no point in pursuing a matter that you have no power to change.  Acceptance of the things that are 100% unchangeable is a sign of maturity.  Let’s not confuse this with determination to fight where there is a chance to effect change on an important matter.  It really comes down to a judgement call.  How important is it and is it within my control to effect change.  We have to let go of the matters that are in the low importance, low probability quadrant.

So with a week or so to go now before Christmas, it is important to keep in mind that Christmas is often a time of heightened emotions.  We might be susceptible to the roller coaster of emotions at this time of year.  Things that don’t get us worked up at other times of the year might get to us now.  So be vigilant and keep a look out for your emotions getting out of hand.  When it comes to stress management, self awareness and self reflection are your friends.

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