Manage Stress and Lock Out Worry

We all know it: stress is a killer. But long before it gets that bad, it’s still bad!

Stress reduces our ability to think creatively and often contributes to hasty decisions that we pay for later. At the most elemental level, stress is a thief that can, if allowed, rob us of enjoying life moment by moment.

So . . . like so many other things that come our way daily, stress must be managed.

Okay . . . This Works!

I’d like to use this posting to share a strategy that I’ve found to be very effective in taming the lion of stress–bearding it, as it were.

I learned to apply this technique when I was in the middle of that desert of lost hope called a doctoral dissertation. I had chosen a research methodology called “grounded theory.” This method could best be likened to pulling in everything you can find out about your research topic and then plowing through all of it hoping to find the pony. If something doesn’t come up out of the muck—and your continued appointment as a professor depends upon it—you’re out on the streets. I had to face the lion of fear and hopelessness or stay curled up in the mental fetal position I often found myself in and be out on the streets shortly.

Enough verbiage! Here is the Technique.

I talked to the fear that kept knocking on the door of my mind as if it were a living creature. It sure felt as if it was real because it kept talking to me saying things like, “You’re a loser; you’re never going to get this done” and “You’re going to lose your job.” Although it was very difficult to ignore such convincing and oh so helpful encouragements that echoed through my mind, I fought back.

When I would hear the knock at the door of my mind with the temptation to be paralyzed with fear, I would speak to it the following statements:

1. I will not give you a minute’s attention.

2. I will not open the door.

3. I will not invite you in.

4. I will certainly not sit down with you on the sofa and carry on a conversation with you.

5. I WILL ignore you and turn my attention to things that make progress.

Whew! I could not believe how hard this was to do the first few times I DISCIPLINED myself to manage this stress and keep the lion away! I would close my eyes and hear the pounding at the door. In my mind’s eye I would see the savage lion pacing and jumping up on the door, trying to get in. (visualization and imagination are very important to make this work).

Difficult–It Goes Against Our Learned Tendencies to Accept Worry

Every bit of our nature wants to dwell on the negative–to have a relationship with failure–but we have to deny that very strong pull! We’re not in the middle of a soap opera here. This is life and the stakes are very high. The lion of worry and fear has real power but it can only damage us if it can get in and take over our world.
And remember, the lion outside sometimes sounds like a little lamb that just needs some attention. But if you open the door, if you invite it in, if you let it commune with you on the sofa, it will take over and devour your thought life and energy. Negative is negative, whether it is in the body of a lion or a lamb.
We won’t let that happen, will we?

An Ongoing Strategy

Since then, long after my dissertation was completed and successfully defended, I’ve had to manage stress and resist the temptation to carry on a warm relationship with fear, doubt, and insecurities many times by using this same technique.

Try it the next time something is threatening to overwhelm you. It works best if you speak out loud but, of course, you also have to manage the possible perception on the part of your co-workers that you might be stark, raving mad.
Take care and take care of yourself!