We all deal with stress in different ways and when it comes to travel, stress that you'll miss your flight, get lost in an unfamiliar city, lose your luggage, or have a miserable time always nags you in the back of your mind.
Take a deep breath and relax. This week's Thoughtful Thursday hits the nail right on the head when it comes to stress. Find out how to manage it and how to deal with it!
Guest Blog Post by Christine Hassler
Stress is something that plagues most of us in some way or another. Learning how to manage stress is hot topic especially during your twenties when there can be quite a lot of transitions and unknowns. To me, stress is not something to "manage" since managing stress implies that it is still going to be there. Wouldn't you rather eliminate stress by learning how to respond to it in more life-enhancing ways?
For years I tried to learn how to "manage" stress. I read books, went to yoga classes, scheduled in down time, spent time in nature and so on but I found that there was a huge roadblock to having any of these things be effective stress management techniques: my mind. Even in the midst of a great hike overlooking a beautiful view my thoughts would wander to my to-do or worry list. Or I'd be so busy that I'd find myself rushing to make it to a yoga class and be even more mentally stressed out by the time I got there! Instead of trying to manage stress by doing other things, I have found the key is to learn how to RESPOND to stress by making my mind (the true beholder of all stress) my ally rather than my nemesis.
Most stress comes in two forms: anxiety and overwhelm. Anxiety is when we are stressed about things that have not happened yet, things we are anticipating. Anxiety is basically future based worrisome thinking. Overwhelm occurs when there is so much on our plate and our thoughts become burdened with constant to-dos and a sense that we will never catch up.
When you are experiencing stress you are either anxious or in overwhelm and there are effective ways to respond to each. Let's tackle anxiety first. I guarantee you that if you are feeling anxious your mind is in the future. It is impossible to feel anxiety when you are in the present moment; thus, bringing your full attention and awareness to the here and now is the quick-fix to anxiety. You can do this by paying attention to your breathing, your body, or any other physical experience you are feeling, seeing, tasting, or hearing.
Staying in the present moment is challenging for all of us, especially when there is a specific thing that you are worried about so I want to also offer you a mental technique that combats anxiety. Imagine whatever the future event is that you are concerned about in your mind but visualize it going exactly the way you want it to go. Really bring it to life in your mind; see it, feel it, sense it, and watch it happen in a way that exceeds your best case scenario. Spend about a minute positively and powerfully visualizing the event or circumstance you are stressed about and then project yourself in your mind 15 minutes past the successful completion of the event so that you are now looking back on it. And now notice what happened to the feeling of anxiety? It will be gone!
Now onto dealing with overwhelm. We experience this feeling when we have too much vagueness in our mind and we are not focused on specific and immediate action steps. Overwhelm happens when we become so burdened by EVERYTHING that we have a hard time focusing on ANY ONE THING. The key to responding to overwhelm is a process called chunking down which is breaking down your "everything" into small, manageable parts. Write down each of the to-do items or things you have hanging over your head and then begin a process of chucking them down vertically from big-picture intangibles to specific tangibles.
Now we are at a specific, manageable steps. As soon as you arrive at this chunked down step, move into action. Overwhelm begins to disappear as soon as we move out of reaction to our seemingly overwhelming to-do list and into being proactive! Our mind is a lot calmer when we give it something tangible and do-able to focus on.
Another thing to consider when stress comes in is to take a mental vacation by recalling a time when you did feel totally at peace and relaxed. Instead of the stress taking hold of you, take hold of it. Reassure yourself that you are capable of letting go of stress even when a lot is going on. Life will continually throw us curve balls and most of us are in the habit of creating never-tending to-do lists so rather making stress your enemy, accept it and learn how to respond to it. Instead of always needing a vacation, use your mind to become a master of sending stress away on vacation!
About the Author:
Christine Hassler left her successful job as a Hollywood agent at 25 to pursue a life she could be passionate about...but it did not come easily. After being inspired by her own unexpected challenges and experiences, she realized her journey was indeed her destination. In 2005, she wrote the first guide book written exclusively for young women, entitled 20 Something 20 Everything. Christine’s second book, The 20 Something Manifesto written for men and women stems from her experience coaching twenty-something’s.
Today, she supports individuals as a Life Coach helping clients discover the answers to the questions: “Who Am I, What do I want, and How do I get it?” As a professional speaker, Christine leads seminars and workshops to audiences around the country. She has spoken to over 10,000 college students as well as to conferences and corporations about generational diversity. Christine has appeared as an expert on The Today Show, CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX, E!, Style and PBS, as well as various local television and radio shows, speaking about life issues and “Expectation Hangovers®” – a phenomenon she identified and trademarked.
Christine is the spokesperson for Zync from American Express and the key resource for their Quarterlife Program which empowers young people to take control of their finances. She also created a life balance curriculum for the Leadership Institute and is a member of Northwestern University’s Council of 100. www.christinehassler.com