4 steps to deal positively with stress

“Busy”. Nowadays an ambiguous word. All my friends and colleagues tell me they’re busy — just like me. This is a good thing. We’ve got jobs, engaging projects, social life and everything. But at the same time, we’re heading towards burn-out in ever bigger numbers (1 out of 7 employees in the Netherlands with burn-out symptoms) and a book on being “busy” is a best-seller. So, we’re trying to fix that. We often have the idea that our stress arises from the situation, so we try to fix our specific problems. But… what if we wouldn’t work on “what’s wrong”, but play on our strengths instead? Learn yourself that you can deal with stuff, so stuff doesn’t bother you that much anymore.

1: you’re not 100% out of control

First of all, a lot of stress comes from the feeling of not being in control. So, next time you’re stressed out, do this quick exercise. Take a sheet of paper and write two columns. In the first, write down actions you can take to make the matter worse. What can you do to screw up? In the other column, write down actions that you can take to make the best out of it. Look at your notes and discover: everything you’ve written down is a sign of your influence. That’s never complete — external factors always play a role — but you’ve more influence than you might think.

2: there are more ways that lead to Rome

Second, you can write down your specific goal you want to accomplish. Start brainstorming on different ways to accomplish that goal. In true brainstorming style, it can be anything. Bribe a colleague, work harder, just hope for the best and see what happens, etc. All kind of ways that might do the job. Out of all these options, choose the three most suiting options — both in chance of success as well as “do-ability”. For each, write down 1) what you need to do; 2) what possible obstacles you might meet and 3) how you can deal with those obstacles. Choose your best option and remember: you have still other options left.

3: have a little faith in… yourself

Third, with your plan in hand, think about what makes you capable of succeeding. The following questions can help you with that. 1) what have you done in the past that was similar to this? 2) what are the specific actions that you’re going to take? 3) how have other people managed to do this and how can you learn from them?

4: remember your own resilience

Fourth, remember your resilience. Just like everyone else, you’ve been through some easy and some difficult times. What helped you in previous hard times? What did you do? Who helped you out? How did you cope? No one is resilient or not resilient. Instead, everyone has some resilience, and by reminding yourself of your own resilience, you can switch it “on”.

Just try it.

You’re never sure of success nor failure. The way of learning is by doing. And whether you succeed or not, look back to see in what ways you’ve grown. Enjoy and good luck!

These steps are based on the theory of Psychological Capital, by Luthans and others. Interested in more (Dutch) exercises for Psychological Capital? My book is full of easy to read theory and practical exercises to grow your PsyCap.

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