The story goes like this, eighteen hours before my plane is going to leave for vacation, I discover that I cannot find my passport anywhere. I spend the next 10 hours turning my house upside down –still no passport. I was calm at the beginning. Of course it will show up I thought. It really can’t be that far but by the time I was convinced it was in fact lost and began looking for solutions to replace it, there were very few solutions and all of them were expensive and time consuming.
Still not fully convinced that I was not leaving in the morning, I went to sleep. When I woke up I gave one last search and surrendered to the fact that I would not be getting on the plane in a couple hours. This is what my day looked like. I showered, drank some coffee, jumped in the car and picked up new passport photos. I started the trek to Boston in rush hour traffic. While in the car I was talking to the airline, the passport agency, a friend at the airlines, and finding a place to print my itinerary. It seemed everything could get done but not in the order it needed to get done so I kept wiggling the pieces to try and get them to fit to get on the plane the next day while driving down the highway in stop and go traffic.
Um, yeah, stressful…
There were some things that helped me navigate this situation and remain relatively unstressed but more than anything what this situation reminded me of what how important it is to remember that stress is not an essential part of the equation and to use the tools that I know work!
Remember that stress is optional: Somehow we collectively came to the decision that if things are not going the way we want them to, stressing out about it is the right thing to do. While a small amount of stress can increase our focus and performance a large amount of stress has a very clear detrimental effect. When things are spinning out of control the only thing that is in our control is how we feel as we go through it. If you find yourself getting stressed, you can ask yourself if that is how you want to feel. Believe it or not sometimes we are hooked on our negative states and we are reluctant to let them go. It can be helpful to accept the desire to be negative and find out why it seems so important to hang onto. Maybe it is a form of self-punishment or maybe it is a desire to get support or attention. If it feels too important to let it go then awareness is all you need to do. When you are ready, you will be able to choose to put down your unnecessary stress regardless of the situation.
Ask yourself if it can be easier:
One thing that can slip our minds when we are stressed out –as I said being stressed out is not good for our decision making- is to remember to make things as easy as possible. So, stop, take a breath, or maybe even three. Look at the situation. Aside from your mood, what can be done to streamline or simplify things? Do you ever find yourself getting ready to go on a trip or prepare for some event and all of a sudden you add in a bunch of other things to get done? For example, it is your kids birthday party in a few hours and you decided to clean out the laundry room all of a sudden? May sound crazy to some but I know plenty of people who have done it. Finding a smoother and easier way to do things is usually possible. Like I said, stop and take a breath and then ask yourself “What can I do to make this easier?”
Focus on what you want:
When things start to go wrong it is so easy to start to focus on everything that goes wrong. Every little bump becomes another stress and every potential bump is seen and fixated on well before it has even arrived. The purpose of stress is to make us hyper aware so that we can solve the problem at hand. However, while that makes sense evolutionarily, it only gets us to baseline –we can only prevent bad things from happening we don’t have much of an ability to make good things happen. By switching our focus to the outcome we desire in the big picture and in each moment the potential that we can create is much, much, greater.
Be nice, use your people skills, and ask for help:
When we get stressed it is really easy to share our stress with others via being curt or even aggressive. If we can take a moment and recognize that the other person has no way to understand why we are acting the way that we are and stressing them out only makes for two stressed out people, then we might be able to adjust our behavior to get more of what we want. So, remember to smile (which coincidentally will help your mood!) and use please and thank you! In addition, it is easy for some of us to go it alone. Remember that people are out there and can help you through this challenging stretch so if you know someone who might be able to help, ask and make your life a little easier.
Is stress an issue in your life? Tune in this week to Real Answers Radio. I will be hosting Grace Dulude, integrative therapist and yoga instructor. Grace and I will be sharing special insights on how to make each moment of your life more stress-free.