Unfortunately, stress is a habitual part of life, and as such, stressful things will happen.
Credit cards will be stolen on trips abroad.
Company-wide budget cuts will occur.
Someone will say something so harsh, you’ll wonder if they’ve got venom running through their veins.
But how you choose to react to stress — and how you choose to invite ease into the everyday — is where you get to claim your own destiny.
The sensations that often define stress, such as overwhelm, anxiety, and tension, are always present to varying degrees, whether you recognize them or not. You might be well aware of the extreme triggers that put you over the edge, like an overbearing boss, a unkindly mother-in-law at the Thanksgiving table, or a flat tire on a hellish day. But the stressful little pings on your daily radar, like a negative comment from a colleague, the all too familiar frenetic day of competing meetings and deadlines, or rush-hour congestion, often go unnoticed.
Just as those day-to-day triggers that live just under the surface tend to be less apparent, they also have a sneaky way of building up and blocking out ease. Children’s tantrums, the abrasive tone of a colleague, or a missed promotion are just a few examples of mini-stressors that block flow and obscure the view of the bigger vision over the long term.
To break out of the stress whirlpool — the never-ending cycle that keeps us stuck — we must first turn in.
The leaders I work with tend to talk about their stress triggers in ambiguous terms. Blanket statements like, “I’m stressed!” become thin veils that disguise the origins of the tension without a proactive way of breaking through it for once and for all. My job as a Possibilitarian® is to help them put a name on the stressor so that they may identify the specific trigger that tips them over the edge, as well as a feeling that the trigger brings to the surface. Together, we identify the negative feelings that manifest themselves physically, such as resistance, pressure, and strain, therefore disrupting the cycle of stress. By dipping our hands into the water, we pull out an actionable piece that helps them choose to escape stress and access ease.
Processing your triggers consciously can be a priority, if you’re brave enough to exercise choice.
An initial reaction to a stressful event, like touching a hot stove or reacting to harsh criticism, might be the same every time simply because we’re human. We run from that which is uncomfortable. We hide from that which is frightening. These are natural instincts that have protected us for millions of years, but handicap us when it comes to opening up to possibility.
@@Resilience is the antidote to reactivity.@@
Running, hiding, and reacting is what happens when you let stress triggers get away with an emotional hijacking. You let them beat you up, kick you down, and go with its flow rather than your own. When you exercise choice in how you let stress affect you, however, you build the kind of resilience that allows you to process before you respond and think before you act. In doing so, you get to exercise your power without letting stress overpower you.
Processing the stressful stimuli and choosing to react in an empowered way lets you feel how you want to feel, not how you think you should feel.
Once you’ve begun making a habit out of processing rather than reacting, you move from feeling (an instantaneous gut reaction) to thinking (a carefully considered action), and thus, spontaneity to control. Taking some time to sit and think, journal how you feel about a certain decision, or holding your tongue before you respond to a critic are a few ways that you can exercise resilience in the moment. Like a placid zen master, you get to filter out your reaction and respond from a place of reality, rather than reactivity.
Self-talk is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Have you ever heard the phrase “you are what you eat”? Doughnuts aside, the same sentiment is true when it comes to how we talk to ourselves about stress. Over the decades I’ve spent working with high-performing leaders, executives, and entrepreneurs, I’ve found that there is nothing more accurate than the truth (or lies) we tell ourselves. If we think we can do it, we can do it. If we know we’re going to have a bad time, well, we’re going to have a bad time.
Like a tall tale, the thoughts we have (“I’m so high strung!”, “Christmas is chaotic!”, “He hates me!”) are stories that get passed down internally. What you think is what you expect, and what you believe is what you see.
But by disrupting your expectations and opening the narrowness of your perceptions, you’re more apt to see the silver lining. Less rigid expectations about the theoretical open you up to the serendipity of coincidence, softening the blow you come to expect in preparing to meet your stress triggers.
Next time you see or feel stress building up on the horizon, take heart. You have a right to choose how you feel about stress, because stress is a two-way relationship, not a one-way street.
Exercising choice in the matter is the antidote to letting stress claim ownership of you. Choose wisely.