Stress is often just our reaction to a situation, this means it’s possible to react in a different way. You could choose to be motivated by the situation, or maybe even mildly annoyed. Here are some tips for avoiding stress even when the going gets tough.
Managing stress in this way might be treating a symptom of a wider problem (being overworked, or imposter syndrome, for example) but it’s important you know how to deal with stressful situations.
Most stress comes from how we respond to a situation so it’s entirely possible to choose not to respond in that way. Knowing this changed my life but I know this is often easier said than done.
It takes some practice but it’s possible to reduce your stress by changing how you respond in situations that would normally cause stress.
First, breathe. If something triggers a stress response, take a few moments to breathe through it. This will calm you down and help you deal with the situation logically.
It stops you making a rash, adrenaline-fuelled decision. Once you’re calm, start to try and think logically.
Ask yourself the question: Will this matter in five years?
This helps you differentiate between situations where stress is warranted, such as the death of a loved one, and something more trivial such as a harsh comment from a boss or someone cutting you up in traffic.
Next, ask yourself if you have control over the situation.
If the answer is no, there is no point in stressing because there is nothing in the world you can do to change the situation. An example of this might be a person you are relying on for input going away on holiday, meaning you have to wait.
You can’t control the fact that they’re away so it’s best to not stress about it and get on with something else.
Then ask yourself what you can control
If not the direct situation, what can you affect? Firstly your reaction, as I mentioned, but what else? Can you plan a step ahead? Implement new processes to stop this happening again? Get on with something else that will have a less stressful outcome?
Finally, ask yourself if there is a solution
Let’s say your hard drive dies and you lose an essay. Worth getting frustrated about, of course, but getting stressed does not get you your essay back. Take a deep breath and start typing. It’s the only way it’s going to get done.
When I was in Canada for my first ever ski trip, I picked up the wrong (identical!) bag. It travelled the two-plus hours with me from Calgary to Banff. I got to my hotel and opened it up, only to realise it wasn’t mine.
Visions of not being able to ski the next day flooded my head. I took a deep breath. While my partner was getting more worked up about the situation (he had his bag!), I started to think logically.
My bag wasn’t gone. It was either at the airport or with someone who’d been on my flight (who could be in a different part of Canada…). Even if I never saw my bag again, this was fixable. I had insurance, everything could be replaced and I could just buy what I didn’t have.
There was no way I wouldn’t be able to ski. I could hire trousers and a helmet and buy gloves and goggles. I was hiring skis and boots anyway. I could borrow my partner's undies and thermals. I could ski.
Once I’ve been through the situation logically, I thought about how to get the bag back. We called our reps and they were amazing. Thankfully the woman whose bag was stolen was with the same tour operator and in the same resort. They got the bag back in a day.
I got mine back in two.
Other than spending £150 I didn’t need to, nothing changed. I skied. It was brilliant.
If I’d let myself get wound up, it would’ve ruined the trip. Now, I almost forget it even happened.
Always look at what you can control. Breathe.
How do you handle stress?