Your washing machine dies mid-cycle, and you’re on the way out the door for a critical appointment.
Your computer freezes when you were 75% done working on a document. You reboot, to discover that your edits were not saved.
Someone close to you (or you) receives unsettling news or a diagnosis.
An unexpected, accidental death.
Control. We want it … we crave it … it makes us feel safe, better, or calmer when we have it. When we feel like we don’t have it, or when undesirable events outside of our control occur (sometimes seemingly all at once), we grasp for it even more.
Truly, what do you have control over, and how can you use that to your benefit in managing your energy and stress?
With even the best laid plans, things can go awry on a small or large scale on any given day, in or out of work.
I’m sure you can relate to some of the actual events listed above, and can rattle off more of the same nature, that either you have encountered, or that someone you know has experienced.
When the unexpected happens, you can both prepare to be level-headed, and act in a way that minimizes you from being consumed by an event. Here’s how:
1. Start your day in a way that gives you calm.
You don’t know how the rest of your day is going to go, so get a good start in the morning. Use a practice that gives you a calm foundation for the day. What could this look like? Possibilities include going for a run or walk, sitting quietly, focused breathing, journaling, yoga, creating your ‘to do’ list for the day, listening to music or read from sources that uplift you.
2. Remove distractions from your environment.
Here, I’m talking about the physical clutter. The clutter on your desk, the incoming postal mail to sift through, the piles of clothes, books, paper or whatever around your home and/or office. Clutter is a huge energy drain and distraction to your productivity.
If you’re currently challenged with clutter, start attacking it in 15 minute chunks: set a timer if you have to, and chip away at it in incremental daily chunks.
3. Leverage your contacts, friends, and outside resources.
From making home repairs, to getting support for business and life changes – from the minor annoyances, to the inconveniences, to the life-changing and tragic – there’s no need to go it alone. In fact, things are typically much easier, you’ll gain more peace of mind, and make smoother and quicker progress when you have help.
Lean on your friends: be clear on what support you need. Your true friends are happy to help.
In your networking, build a list that you can rely on for personal and professional assistance, have one or two friends that are your go-to people for whatever type of resource you need, and maintain contact with these people (Malcolm Gladwell calls these people “connectors” in his book, The Tipping Point).
4. Respond powerfully.
What do I mean by this? No matter what happens, no matter how horrible or undesirable it is, find a way to respond with acceptance. It may take a few deep breaths, giving yourself time and space to pause, beforehand. You may not want to accept it, but accepting helps you acknowledge your true feelings, and then pave the way to move through whatever life presents you. Pushing against it, or saying things like ‘this shouldn’t have happened/be happening” only builds walls and resistance, and keeps you stuck in a place longer than you’d rather be or need to be. Accept that this is “what is” and move forward.
5. Use empowering questions and/or mantras.
Instead of asking ‘Why me’ or ‘Why did this have to happen,’ try something like, “How can I approach today, or this situation, with ease?” Or, “What needs to be done now, and what can wait?” Or, “I may not know all the steps I need to take, but what is one next step I can take?” You can ask yourself this out-loud, to yourself, in your journal, before you hop in the shower, before exercising. Even write on a note pad before you go to bed – see what answer you wake up with.
A mantra I came across, after reading Choosing Easy World by Julia Rogers Hamrick is “I choose to live in Easy World, where everything is easy.” Following the book’s suggestion, I wrote this statement on a sticky note and have it easily accessible in my planner. I’ve found it helpful to pull it out and read it when some trying events have occurred.
Choose a mantra that’s meaningful for you and put it in a place where you’ll frequently see it: your planner, next to your computer screen, your dashboard, steering wheel, mirror. You could even take a picture of the mantra on a sticky note and use that for your smartphone’s background/wallpaper.
6. Look for things to be grateful for in the process.
At first blush, this step may not always be easy. However, if you can find and acknowledge something to be grateful for, however big or small, this level of noticing and appreciation opens the door to more ease and allowing more good.
7. Wisely choose the stories you tell yourself.
Many times, it’s not the events themselves that get us worked up, but the stories we tell ourselves about the events. We can get caught in a downward spiral of what if’s, “catastrophizing,” and worry. If you find yourself in that place, stop, catch yourself, and ask what’s really true about the situation. Most times, it’s different, even the complete opposite, of what you’ve been telling yourself. Your body’s flight-or-fight-response reacts to your mind thoughts, and the body doesn’t know whether the mind is making something up or whether it’s reality. Knowing that, feed your mind a story that your body will like, and not stress out over.
8. Build in recovery times for your body, mind and spirit.
Whether things are humming along or not-so-great, this tip is paramount in your energy and stress management. You don’t need permission, it’s not a selfish act, nor do you need to feel guilty about carving out recoup time in your days and weeks. It’s not a luxury to regularly recharge: I argue it’s an essential element for operating effectively in today’s world, while preserving your well-being. If it feels challenging to work into your schedule, start with 15 minute sanity breaks: whatever that means for you.
Image credit: John Hain on Pixabay