Last Thursday, I found myself super grumpy and frustrated. The day started with a dentist appointment for my kids that I thought would take 30 minutes, but it took 75, and for those who don’t know me, I don’t deal well when my schedule gets thrown off, especially at the beginning of the day.
I found my anger and annoyance building. I was mad at the dentist and the hygienist. I was annoyed with my 7-year-old, who was bored waiting for his brother. All I could think about was how I wasn’t going to get the things I had planned to get done before my 10:30 client. Plus, I was worried I’d be late for my client, which is one thing I always want to avoid.
Then after dropping my boys off at school and walking home, it seemed like everyone was casually strolling and in my way. Grrrr. Didn’t they know I had places to be?
OK, it’s kind of funny writing about it now.
Was I really annoyed at the dentist, my kids and the slow walkers? Nope. What I was, was stressed. I have a big keynote presentation I’m delivering in person to a company on the 14th, which is both thrilling and nerve-wracking. But I also have many other things on the go, family coming to visit from out of town, and my schedule suddenly seems jammed from now until Christmas.
The more I thought about all of my to-dos, the more stressed I felt.
Then I remembered that I teach my clients how to reduce stress as part of my program, and hey, wouldn’t it be great if I took my own advice and shared my process with you?
The 4 steps to reducing stress and feeling better are:
1. Identify what’s causing your stress.
So often, we don’t stop and think about what’s causing our stress – we just know we feel extra anxious or annoyed. And then we tell ourselves to snap out of it, which usually annoys us more.
Once I thought about it, I identified that I was feeling stressed over this big keynote presentation I’m delivering, a Rotary event I’m co-chairing for the holidays, a new joint venture I’m launching in January and a consulting initiative that’s just kicking off. Plus, already thinking about all of the planning and prep that has to happen for the holiday season. And all of my kids’ activities that occur every week.
By listing my stressors, I can see a lot, but I also feel calmer having identified them.
2. List your priorities for the coming month or two.
If you had to pick five priorities in your life, personally and professionally combined, what would they be?
My priorities for the rest of the year are building my business, being present for my family & friends, serving my clients to the best of my ability, giving back to my community and having a solid foundation for healthy lifestyle habits.
3. Check your stressors list (#1) against your priorities (#2) to see if they align.
Stress isn’t always bad. Good stress can help us grow and do things we want, but we find it scary. So, if your stressors align with your priorities, that’s OK. You have to manage your stress so it doesn’t take over.
On the other hand, if your stressors aren’t aligned, it’s time to kick some to the curb. What can you say no to or delegate to someone else? Can you ask someone for help, as hard as that may be?
In my case, my list above is super exciting and scary. Most of that list contains stuff I’ve never done before, which means my imposter syndrome wants to kick in. But they’re also things I’ve wanted to do, and they’re finally happening. Now it’s a matter of managing my stress, so it doesn’t take me down. And it also means asking my husband for more help with my boys this week, as I need lots of keynote prep time in addition to my regular work activities.
4. Choose healthier coping mechanisms.
Sometimes when we enter our busy or stressful season, we tell ourselves we don’t have the time or energy to be healthy. But we must start telling ourselves that that’s when we need it the most. The more we choose healthy coping mechanisms, the more energy we will have.
The trick here is thinking about how you’ll feel the next day after choosing the healthier option. Because if we think of immediate gratification, we’re going to select wine, junk food, or sleeping in.
What are some things that bring you joy and calm? A hot bath? Great tunes? Going for a run or walk? Calling a friend? Reading a good book? Writing? These options can still feel good in the moment and even better the next day!
Good luck, and let me know how it goes!