Stress isn’t always the bad guy that it’s made out to be. The hormones created by stress can actually strengthen neural connections in our brain, and can help us be more productive and focused. Furthermore, stress motivates us to succeed and makes us more resilient. But when stress strikes, most of us don’t think about its positive side-effects. Instead, we think……this really sucks. Something that differentiates the mediocre from the extraordinary is strength and resilience, and the way we manage stress is a great indication of those two qualities. When I come upon a stressful situation, my goal is to be as intentional as possible with my thoughts, and the way I perceive and process the circumstances. I ask myself these three questions to help me stand in my own power and handle stress with dignity…and sometimes even with a little grace.
1. What can I control here? And the answer is never people or circumstances. You are only in control of your own actions and your own response to a circumstance. Others are responsible for their actions and responses.
2. What can you do to smooth out the situation? When you react to a stressful situation in a way that positively influences others, you have the power to turn chaos into a learning experience, for you and others. Act authentically and consider the personalities involved. How can you guide things to a place where the situation can be diffused or resolved? And if you can’t, don’t stress about it. Refer to question #1 about control.
3. Where can I find acceptance? Sometimes there’s simply nothing we can do to influence a stressful situation. That’s where grace comes into play. Being able to recognize when efforts are futile and take a step back from the situation altogether is a true sign of strength and resilience. It’s not easy, but once you hone your ability to accept situations that you can’t change, you’ll find the most amazing sense of serenity…even in a world of chaos.
There are self-care techniques that can help us be mindful and intentional during stressful situations. Some are fitness, meditation, getting plenty of rest, and eating a well-rounded, nutritious diet, and being authentic and true to ourselves. Those who manage stress are not only more effective leaders, but they are also happier, healthier, and more productive. Start adding self-care practices into your daily routine, and try to be more mindful the next time you’re in a high-stress situation by asking yourself the questions above. You’ll be surprised at the contrast between how you respond instinctively versus how you respond after a moment of thought!