This post was originally one I did as a guest blog for someone else. for some reason that blog is not working any more, so I thought I would re-post this as the first step in revitalising the WisdomBlog.

If you’re feeling stressed, do this – It Will Help!

This can be a very busy time of year for people. However for some, it can feel like the Chinese curse, ‘may you live in interesting times’. It’s when people tend to take stock of where they are, what they’ve achieved, and where they’re going. The thing is that while some will sit down with paper and pen to do this, many people are not even aware they are doing it.

Yes, it’s a common time for people to consciously strategise, either personally or for their business. But even if you’re not doing this, something in the back of your brain is working at helping you position yourself for the New Year. Sounds good? Well not always.

The issue is that this can result in an immense level of stress about one thing or another.

Typical examples are:

  • I have too many things to do
  • I have too many goals to achieve
  • I have too many debts
  • I don’t have enough business in my pipeline
  • I don’t know how I’m going to succeed

What is Stress?

Put simply, stress is a physiological response to a feeling of being threatened. It is when you feel that the world around you has threats, and that you cannot cope with them. This can cause your body to go into a hard-wired defensive mode called ‘Fight or Flight’. It’s a state designed to protect you. Amongst other things, this has the effect of making you less rational. However, when you are less rational than normal, you tend to feel that more things are a threat. This vicious circle is what leads to the feeling that, ‘the more you think about it, the more you feel you can’t handle things’, and the more stressed you get.

How to deal with it?

Dealing with stress can be a very simple process. It takes three things:

  • Clarity
  • Planning
  • Action

Clarity

More often than not, when we feel stress, it is because we are taking the situation as it is now, and worrying about what it might mean in the future: how drastic the consequences will be. Two things about this are interesting. Firstly, this is based on the assumption we are not going to be able to do anything about it. Secondly, it is usually based on a lot of assumptions about what the actual situation is.

Therefore, what is needed is a clear understanding of the situation.

Sit down, with a piece of paper and a pen. For each situation you feel stressed about, write down what is actually happening: what is actually the situation. Not what it means, or where it might go, but what is the current reality of the problem or problems. Often, this alone will begin to make you feel less stressed.

Planning

When we worry about things, we often focus on all of the issues and difficulties surrounding them. This is normal, but not helpful. Rather than doing this, force yourself to look at the current reality, and list all of the things you ‘can’ do. It doesn’t matter how small they are; the more things you write down, the more you will get your brain to focus positively, and therefore come up with more. This will allow you to see that there are a lot of things you can do.

Action

Once you have got clear on the problems, and have listed some things you can do – do something. It really doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do something. It is the inertia of inaction that makes things seem worse. It subconsciously convinces us we can’t do anything.

Look at your list of things you can do, and start with the one you feel most comfortable with. When you’ve done that, do another one. If you have a trusted productivity system (GTD for example), schedule the tasks in it. Otherwise, just make sure you put a few actions in your plan each week.

Stress is a real condition; however it is not a physical thing. It only really exists in the 4 inches between our ears. It is our body’s attempt to defend ourselves against perceived threats. However, by clearly defining the situation, working out what you ‘can’ do about it (and ignoring all of the things you can’t), and by getting into action, you will not only find your stress levels reducing, you will find yourself solving your problems.

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