Stress comes to us in various forms and in various ways. There are biological causes like hormonal stress, anxiety caused by nutritional deficit and toxicity in the brain. There are stressors that come upon us at home, the office and life at large that are familiar to us. In all of this, we react in ways to cope and we move in patterns of response that we have learned over the years. Some of these have served us well at times though many have not and leave us ineffective in addressing the stress storms of our life.
These perfect storms of anxiety are triggered. Yes, we have learned over time to become “hurt”, “stuck”, “frustrated”, “angered”, or “frightened” by events, words, thoughts and situations that remind us of our past and…we react out of our established patterns. These patterns can be changed with the right tools. Imagine being in that “same old” situation and responding with calm, clarity, decisiveness and “holy cotton pickin’ smoke”…happiness. It is entirely possible and even probable that these stress producing habits can be changed if the tools you use have intervening strategies and allow you to detach from the usual path of thinking.
So, here is one simple strategy for addressing stress. Identify the top 3-5 anxiety producing life situations or storms. Frequently, (often with help) we can predict the areas in our life where we will experience stress. Worthy of noting here is that these top 3-5 situations may account for 75% of your issue. Write these situations down and devise a ‘working plan” ahead of time.
Here’s an example of one situation: “I fear losing my job when my boss corrects me or challenges me to step it up. Then, it takes me 4-5 days to get over the intense anxiety I feel.” I had a client in a similar situation very recently. Here is the short and oversimplified version of how we addressed it.
Question: What do you want to create for yourself in this situation?
Answer: I want 3 things…
- To handle the conversation responsibly by addressing the boss’s exact concerns.
- To feel good and without stress about the outcome.
- My client wanted “to enhance the respect my boss has for me in the way I address the issue” but this is out of my client’s control. The decision to respect my client was the boss’s choice so we reframed the goal to say “I want to create an opportunity for my boss to respect how I address this issue”.
Question: What are the options you could choose that fulfill your criteria?
Answer: Please note that we brainstormed for a while and eliminated some options as they left my friend still feeling stress. Additionally, we cannot make some one respect us as mentioned in the 3rd criteria above. However, we can create an environment conducive and even persuasive to that end. Here’s what the client decided had the best chance of “working”.
- Scheduled time with the boss as soon as she entered the office the next morning to revisit the discussion.
- Gave an honest assessment of the input she had received on a personal basis (i.e. took ownership of her mistake) but also reviewed what she believed to be a contributing and somewhat flawed business process as it lacked quality controls.
- Offered a solution to improve the process that had “quality checkpoints”.
Note: The client was stress free just by coming up with an option that met the “3 things” criteria. It may not happen that way every time but it did here. In fact, she said, “My boss will love this as she will know I am committed to the success of the business unit she leads.” Also, there was a pattern here of the client’s boundaries being ignored by “superiors”. So, taking genuine ownership of her mistake combined with offering a solution “superior” to the methodology in place was monumental in affirming her own self worth (regardless of what the boss concluded).
She took action that morning and the boss responded as she had predicted. I love it when a plan comes together. There is more to the stress tool (the Now Method) than I have explained here and I want to add that we went through a troubleshooting process in case the response of her supervisor was less than desirable. The point is that an intervening strategy was employed that broke an old pattern of anxiety. Additionally, the NOW Method along with other tools from WindRiver Strategies is easy to use and repeatable.