“A boat is always safe in the harbor, but that’s not what boats were built for.” ~ shared by Katie Couric, the Women’s Conference 2009
If you are in your stress zone all the time, you have to ask yourself what role you have in creating this atmosphere for yourself. Perhaps you are a busy CEO, an entrepreneur, or a parent with three children and no help. All are valid reasons to be stressed, but there are plenty of CEOs and parents who are not stressed all the time.
You can experience stress both from positive and negative events. Some people may get stressed as a result of receiving a promotion at work and having new responsibilities. Others may experience stress when preparing for a dinner party when they have limited free time and their house is a mess. Stress levels can also be affected by external negative events, such as losing your job or health insurance, having a fight with your spouse, or gaining weight. Stress levels become unhealthy when your body and mind are constantly under pressure. Learn to be aware of your stress levels and how much you can handle without detracting from your performance.
Here are four effective strategies to help you spend more time stretching and less time stressing:
1. Schedule Your Priorities Rather Than Prioritize Your Schedule
Many people are tempted to make their schedule and then figure out what’s important. The problem with this approach is the things that are important do not make it on the schedule. If you simply prioritize your schedule, there will be little time for the things that matter. If reading to your child is a top priority, you have to make the time. If working out is important, you need to schedule it in. Top 1%ers schedule their priorities so that important events make it on the calendar. Creating time for priorities is about being proactive.
2. Do It, Dump It, or Delegate It
Your choices are either to do something yourself, dump it and forget about it, or delegate it. Too many people believe that delegating is impossible. The purpose of delegating is to free up time to focus on your priorities. It often involves giving up some control so that you can put your energy to better use elsewhere. You may be used to doing a task and think it is easier and quicker to do it yourself. This is the mindset that keeps you from delegating. Remember to focus on your strengths and empower others by utilizing theirs.
Initially, you may have to invest some time, but in the long run you will free up your mind. Keep in mind that when you delegate, it often helps someone else expand his or her role. Let’s say your house is in disarray and you feel overwhelmed, but need to focus on other projects. Even if you do not have a housekeeper it may be helpful to hire someone for one day to come in and clean your house. This one step will free up hours of your time and reduce your stress.
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3. Say No
Yes, that is correct. You do not have to say yes to everything that comes your way. You can only do something about your stress level if you pinpoint what causes your stress. Think about how stressed you are on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest). When you reach a 7 or higher, your self-defense mechanisms need to kick in. This means saying no when you are asked to take on too much or do one more favor. It is okay to take care of YOU INC. first (also see http://www.thechangeblog.com/ways-to-feel-empowered/). There is no better way to thrive. Sometimes the best choice you can make is to use the word no to protect yourself. When you start to prioritize yourself and make changes, some friends will support your new behavior and others will challenge you, so be prepared.
4. Focus on the Present Moment
Children are rarely stressed because they live in the present moment. They do not worry if the playground will be closed or if they will have time to take a bath before dinner. They are present with what they are doing in the moment which keeps their minds focused.
When you are fully engaged in the present moment and focus on one task at a time, your mind is clear. You increase your stress levels when you obsess about something from the past or spend time worrying about the future. You can’t change the past and you do not control the future. Identify the most important priorities and then tackle one at a time. Strive to stay in the present moment, and your anxiety and stress levels will be more manageable. Focus on what you can control such as your thoughts and actions.
Top 1% Bottom Line: Change is constant. Stress is inevitable. The part we control is how we will handle it and if we will spend more time in our stretch zone or stress zone. The stretch zone keeps us moving forward while the stress zone is often overwhelming. Choose where you operate best and build practices to keep you moving forward. Please share your favorite practices so we can all learn and lead a better life.
Alissa is a Professional Life Coach, motivational speaker, and author of “Living in Your Top 1%: Nine Essential Rituals to Achieve Your Ultimate Life Goals” available on Amazon.com. She works with individuals and organizations to help them think bigger, redefine what’s possible, and get results. Alissa has an MBA from the Wharton School and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley. To learn more about coaching with Alissa and to take the Living in Your Top 1% quiz, please visit www.AlissaFinerman.com or www.facebook.com/alissafinermantop1.