Coping with Stress

As we pass the halfway mark in the year, many of us are travelling at high revs while others may be redlining.  I know I have been feeling it

There is good and bad news. The bad news is that stress is a common challenge for the majority of professional people.  So, if you’re feeling stressed, you are not alone. The good news is that stress is something we can address positively and proactively through our external and internal worlds (more on that later).

Let’s go back a step or two. Stress has had some bad press however it is not all bad. In fact, there are two types of stress: eustress and distress.

Eustress is a good thing it is the positive stimulation that excites us to get engaged and get things done.  Without it, we probably wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. 

Distress (which we commonly refer to as stress) is its opposite it is negative stress which can result from a variety of adverse things (including too much eustress yes you can have too much of a good thing!) and affects our ability to cope.

So, how do we reduce the distress?

There are lots of helpful strategies for coping with stress.  Some of these I covered last year in my Coaching Corner on Taking Time Out to Re-energise.

However, I think all the strategies are best summarised by Reinhold Niebuhrs Serenity Prayer God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. 

Let’s unpack this...

Firstly, a lot of distress is generated in our internal world.  Yes, a lot of stress in our mindset and is attitudinal we create it!  Somehow the fight/flight response kicks in when it shouldn’t.  There is no sabre tooth tiger, just somebody who might not agree with your view of the world.  Accepting the things you cannot change, like other people’s styles, values, beliefs, personality, etc, is a very good place to start.

If this first part doesn’t work (and I really suggest you give it a good try), then you need to progress to the next step address what is causing the distress.  This may involve having a difficult conversation with someone (see my previous Coaching Corner on Challenging Conversations), trying a new approach or maybe something even more dramatic.

This connects with the last part of the Serenity Prayer the wisdom to know the difference between what I should accept and what I should change.  In my experience, people tend to have a preference to either accept things or change things rather than be able to balance the two. Which do you prefer?

I know for myself that after a period of frustration (non-acceptance), I change things.  Whilst this has brought a lot of positives to my life, I reflected one day that the stressful themes that reoccur in my life tend to have only one common element in them me.  While in the short term a change is as good as a holiday, in the medium term, the themes reoccurred. Essentially, I had just relocated the distress to a new location (and me with it).  I have learnt that I need more acceptance of things and other people in order to keep balance (a work in progress).

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