The past two days were really busy for me, but they were not necessarily stressful.
Have you ever noticed that when you ask someone how they are doing, a common response is “really busy..." and these words are usually followed by a heavy sigh, an eye-roll, and a shrug of the shoulders.
Being busy carries some sort of identity for us. We can’t just “be” who we are, we have to “be” something in order to have identity.
We've decided that to be busy is to be stressed. And if busyness is stressful then this fills our identity, bringing some sort of value to who we are. I am amazed at the thinking on this. Just because we are busy and stressed we are somehow more valuable and have more self-worth.
A lie straight from the pit of Hell!!!
I completely disagree with these lies we tell ourselves:
Lie #1: I am busy so I have to be stressed.
Lie #2: I am busy and stressed so I must be bringing more value to my work.
Lie #3: I am busy and stressed and bringing more value so even though I am exhausted I have a higher feeling of self-worth.
When are we going to stop equating busyness and stress with self-worth?
I think you can be really busy and not be stressed out.
My good friend Dr. Tim Gardner is famous for saying, “What people know about stress is killing them.” Think about that for a minute. In the world of stress and stress management, there is not much new information that has come around over the last 20 years or so. You know everything you need to know about stress and how to manage it and yet you choose it anyway.
I am not talking about temporary stress here like the tension felt in Game 5 of the National League Division Series between the World Champion Chicago Cubs and the Washington Nationals. A four and a half hour, nine-inning baseball game that had more ups and downs and tense moments for both teams. While it that was a really tense 4 and a half hours, that is not the kind of temporary tension I am writing about.
What Dr. Tim means is that most of us know we are going to be busy, and this busyness has the potential to be stressful, and if you let it be stressful it can have a detrimental effect on your overall health and well being.
The question I have for you today is: If you are busy can you choose not to be stressed?
Many of you know that for the past 20 years or so I have been involved in the emotional intelligence movement. Now when you teach something like emotional intelligence, I think folks watch to see if you are a theorist or a practitioner. A theorist knows what the main ideas are and can pass any exam they might take on a subject. A practitioner is someone who understands the theory and works hard to put it into practice.
One of the things we are really excited about in our organization is the certification work we are doing with the EQi 2.0. The actual certification class is a 2-day virtual training that is filled with a lot of practical strategies for implementing the EQi 2.0 assessment. It is exciting for us to work with professionals dedicated to the growth and development of others. We love the work and hearing the great things the participants have to say in training.
One of the competencies we work on is stress management. This idea of managing stress really has two components:
- What to do in a particularly stressful moment?
- How do you manage stress so you lessen its overall effect?
It is this second strategy I want you to think about today.
Management is by definition a planning and organizing function. So if you know you are going to be busy, then how can you plan and organize your life so that the busyness is not stressful?
We often talk about how to deal with stress after the fact, but what if we were more observant of stress before it began? Here are 3 keywords to a proactive stress plan. These words may sound familiar, but pay attention to their definitions. Putting a word to feelings you might not associate with stress can make all the difference when it comes to preparing to overcome our obstacles by helping us create clearer goals. While you're reading, see if any of these definitions relate to your relationship with stress in ways you may not have been able to put words to before.
3 Strategies To Change Your L
FLEXIBILITY: The ability to adapt to change effectively. Any change in life is going to bring emotion. How flexible are you with these feelings? This is a different question than "are you able to take the needed action in a crisis?" Instead, flexibility asks if you are able to flex and choose a different emotional response when you are faced with obstacles. If not, ask yourself: can you put strategies in place to do so? Do you have the flexibility to overpower your emotion and choose a different one, or are you subject to the emotion?
Tolerance: How much can I hold until I break? Tolerance equates with strength. Think of metal: There is a certain amount of weight it holds until it will break. You are the same. There is a level of stress you can hold until you will break. Tolerance measures where that level is for you. This sounds abstract, but it is not. Make a list of all the stressors you are juggling. Can you cross one off or delegate some of that stress?
Optimism: To be optimistic is not to be a shiny happy person who refuses to see harsh realities, but to be resilient. Optimistic people know that it is not a matter of if something will go wrong, but when and are prepared to respond with resilience. It is a constructive response to setbacks. This is where self-talk comes into play: How you talk to yourself when things don't go your way? Are you able to say "This setback happened, but I am still myself apart from this situation and will move on," or do you equate the even with your personality, saying things like, "This is who I am, this sort of thing always happens to me." To be optimistic is to perceive reality properly by not using words like "always" and "never," and to instead to see the situation as what it was, and be ready to separate it from your future self.
Are you going through the motions without examining your stress management? Use these 3 words this week to help you evaluate yourself in these areas, and open up a dialogue with yourself. Ask yourself difficult questions about how much you can really take on, what you are allowing to define your worth, and whether or not you are a slave to your emotions.