Yes , that’s me stress whining. Lately I have been grousing and grumbling a good deal about my schedule and feeling slightly overwhelmed with my “To Do” List. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have a busy work and social life with much to accomplish, but the way I do stress management is to let off steam by doing a little whining. The question is what do you do to keep it all reigned in?
If I say things out loud to a sympathetic listener, the feeling of being overwhelmed dissipates a bit. But I have a couple of other useful tactics as well. One way I reduce stress is to make a list of what I need to do, or what I think I need to do. Then I take the list and start crossing things off. What gets nixed you ask? Depending on my level of motivation, most everything non-essential is gone! Or I have found a way to make a task much easier, or to postpone it. It helps me put in perspective how many tasks I self-assign that are non-essential or can wait, or even better, don’t need to be done at all.
I read once that the busiest people love long lists, but never even consider doing everything on them. Instead they simply select what is most appealing and scrap the rest. I know it sounds like I am encouraging irresponsible behavior, but that is not where I’m headed at all. It is this: by doing the tasks that you find engaging and rewarding either physically, emotionally or intellectually, you end up spending the precious time you have in this world in a way that most benefits you, your family, your friends and your coworkers.
The other way I find useful to reduce the level of felt stress is to reassess my commitments. Is the stress whining present? When you find that you are consistently feeling pressured, it is time to look at all of the weekly/monthly activities in your life and assess each one to see how well it fits in with your value system. If there are certain people that you hang out with who drain your energy, is it time to look elsewhere for companionship? Are there commitments you have made, such as volunteer activities, that no longer appeal to you? Do you need to switch up your fitness routine? Or maybe start one? Is it time to polish your resume for the coming year and put feelers out there for a job switch? I understand that any of these changes may be scary.
What Makes Anxiety Thrive?
We have evolved to anticipate potential harm with any change that we consider. Seeking certainty is part of what drives anxiety. Indeed it is what makes anxiety thrive! No outcome is certain, and the secret to conquering your angst is to shift your attitude to embrace the discomfort uncertainty brings, instead of avoiding it. When you actively seek out a task or an event that has threatened you in the past, and view it as an opportunity to strengthen your “anxiety muscle”, you start building its strength. It is no different from being at the gym and adding a little weight to your fitness routine to challenge your muscles.
Let’s say you have a fear of reading aloud to your coworkers. When you are at your weekly meeting and you can feel your anxiety build as the time approaches where you might get called upon, just allow the anxiety to be there. Tell yourself, “Good, I feel anxious” and keep your focus on the speaker. If he/she looks at you and you know the request is coming, smile at them and joke a bit, saying something like “Okay, let’s get this show on the road”, as you step up to volunteer. You might even joke a bit about feeling nervous to let off a tiny bit of the pressure you feel: “Oh boy, reading to this group when I still need another cup of coffee is tough!”
Every time you do this, you get stronger. Once you begin looking for opportunities to face your fears, starting in small ways, you begin to loosen them, to finally flip the script. Now you are in charge instead of the anxiety. It does not mean your anxiety is forever gone, but that you now know it will not rule the day. And that is a truly fine achievement.