Today, I’m looking to challenge the way we think about stress.
What if stress management is not what we need?
When I think about my most stressful moments, if you were to ask me what caused it all, I would have most likely blamed the environment I was in.
But today, I know better. I believe the real culprit is the series of questions that came with the worrying. It was the constant attack of negative thoughts and “what ifs”.
It wasn’t the highly stressful situation but my habit of worrying about everything.
The solution is not STRESS management but THOUGHT management. STRESS is good; WORRY isn’t.
Let’s consult the dictionary:
- What is stress?
- The dictionary defines it as our body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat.
- What is worry?
- It’s defined as allowing one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.
What’s the difference? Stress is a physical response; worry is a mindset.
What this means to me is that my focus on all possible negative outcomes created the perception of things being out of control; which in turn, raised my stress to an uncontrollable level. The environment had not changed, I did.
Two Ways to Manage Worry?
#1 – Stop The Auto Pilot. Be Present:
Have you ever driven home without remembering doing it?
My mentor Paul Martinelli likes to say: pay attention to what you pay attention to.
Once I started believing everything was important, I slowly allowed myself to think about all the possible things that needed fixing. After a while, worry became a habit. And, I kept doing it until I broke down mentally, physically, and emotionally.
So my first thought management tip: pay attention to what you focus on.
#2 – Use the power of “Isn’t That Interesting…”
Positive or negative, we can’t stop thoughts from happening. What we can do is change the amount of time we spent with them and how we respond to them.
Remember, worry is allowing one’s mind to dwell on the difficulty or trouble.
Having a phrase that forces me to analyze what I’m thinking about is a great way to change the energy of my thoughts.
I heard this phrase also from my mentor Paul and it has served me well since then.
Here’s how it works.
Let’s say you are turning in a financial forecast to a group of company VIPs. As you get close to finishing your job you start thinking: What if my results are significantly different from their expectations?
As soon as I become aware of the thought, I think “Isn’t that interesting…” and I follow it with an exploratory question like:
- At this very moment how does this thought help me improve my results? Or,
- What can I do right now to be more comfortable with what I am presenting?
There are many different ways to follow-up those 3 words. The point is to simply force ourselves to re-focus on what we can control and take the focus away from worry.
What techniques do you use to handle stress and worry?