Monday, November 11, 2019

Stress Management

You finally reached a milestone. You achieved a goal or kicked a habit, and now it's smooth sailing, right? But what happens when you fix one thing, and another problem takes its place? How do you deal with it?
We're going to discuss why this happens, how to fix it, and how to keep it from happening again.
The caveat is, no magic answer solves this problem with no work on your part.

Why does one stressor replace another?

This situation probably sounds familiar.
  • You finally lose weight, but the self-confidence you expected would come with your new figure isn't there.
  • After working hard, you get a big promotion. But it comes with a pile of new responsibilities, and you find yourself working just as hard as you were before (or harder).
  • You just had a bunch of medical care. It's finally over, and you feel better, but now you have to worry about paying all the bills.
The truth is, things don't always go wrong. Even though it's tough to remember it when you're in the moment, most of the time things don't go wrong. Every day we're faced with a multitude of obstacles we overcome. We're hungry; we eat. We need to cross three lanes of traffic to get to our exit; we do it without incident. The copy machine gets jammed with paper; we spend 15 minutes yanking bits of paper out, and it works again.
But sometimes we fixate. We convince ourselves that if this one thing goes right, then our lives will be better. It seems so important that we produce perfect results, and not getting our way puts us in a tailspin.
But you did lose the weight; you did get the promotion; you did make it through that last chemo treatment. Lack of success is not the problem. The issue is where you focus your attention.

How to stop stressing out over results

We live in a very results-oriented society. Also, we are constantly exposed to a stream of well-edited content. Pictures, video, music, and the written word are often scrutinized, filtered, and manipulated multiple times before they're released to the public. So what we see is skewed, perfected versions of reality.
I would go so far as to say we're so accustomed to these false realities that we're hyper-sensitive to "mistakes." "Errors." Or you might also refer to them as the natural state of things. But we see them so rarely in the "real world" that when we do encounter something in its raw form, it's jarring, like nails on a chalkboard.
So, back to results. Do you see now why it's so hard to accept a win if it doesn't yield what we expected? And to take this a step further, our expectations were probably also unrealistic.
Let's look at the weight loss example. You lost that last 20 pounds. So why don't you feel like the attractive, confident, fabulous person you thought was hiding underneath that extra weight?
It's probably because you weren't working on your mindset, you were trying to change your body. You just assumed that your low self-esteem was the result of being overweight, and once you were thin everything else would fall into place.
You didn't take the time to delve into what was going on in your head and heart. Perhaps you were missing the reason you gained weight in the first place, and that never got fixed. The weight loss is on the surface, while the core issue is much deeper.
So when you reach what you've been working for and find it less than fulfilling, take a step back. Congratulate yourself on your achievement. Even if it isn't what you thought it would be, or maybe it isn't what you want any longer, you still did it. Your accomplishment demonstrates your ability to create a plan and execute it. You can use that in the future, regardless of how you feel about your current results. Take your win and celebrate the heck out of it.

How to do better next time

There are no guarantees in life. People change their minds all the time, so it's possible that you will still reach goals and end up disappointed. Not only that, but we can’t control what happens. But there are ways to minimize that possibility but understanding our own minds and how we react to what’s happening.
  • Think about what you want. There's an easy technique for this: ask yourself what you want. Then ask why you want it. Then ask another why to that answer. And then another. And another. Keep asking "why" until you're at the core of your truth. When you get there, you'll know.
  • Make sure to set an objective that's in line with what you want at the core. And with every decision that you must make concerning that end, ask again, "Will this bring me closer or farther away from what I want?" The answer should make it easy to decide what to do next.
  • Your "why" has to be bigger than your objections. Along the way, you're certain to start to fatigue, and your brain will come up with excuses for giving up. If you're doing something for the wrong reasons, you will falter.
  • Check in with yourself along the way. Do you still want this? Why do you want it? Will it get you where you want to be? Is it in line with your values? If you're getting lost along the way in "should," "have to," and other outside influences, stop and take a breath. Get clear with yourself, and decide if you should keep going or move on. Pushing ahead when you have doubts about your interest level and commitment is sure to bring disappointment in the end.
  • Be realistic. No one thing is going to fix all your problems or prevent anything terrible from ever happening again. There's a balance to life. We must experience the bad, so we can better recognize and cherish the good stuff.
  • Resolve to live your best life under any circumstances. I'm not saying you have to be constantly happy; that's just ridiculous. Just try to find the positive in each situation. And if you can't find the positive, at least find the things that you can live with. Focus on those.
I have one last thought to add because it's such a core part of my decision-making process. Go with the simplest route possible. Eliminate the excess, and focus on the most important things in your life.