Is avoiding stress really an effective way to manage stress?
Yes, it can be. Just talking about stress can be exhausting. So it’s often easier to push through the day, put your feelings on a shelf, and tell yourself that you’re being a good adult.
Adulting is hard work and there is a popular misconception around the importance of staying busy. Afternoons off are simply replacing one kind of work with another kind of work – errands, doctors appointments, snack Mom. Evenings are homework with kids or simply crashing, and weekends are usually designated for special projects that are … work. Adulting has become work.
There is no room for something as pedantic as “dealing with stress” in these situations. Adding one more thing is not an option as you hold on to the simple experience of coffee as your last gasp for personal pleasure. So no, don’t ask me to undergo the stress of reducing my stress. Please.
The good news is that a few practices in how you engage with stress can shift you from tense to calm in mere moments without changing anything else. The time-gobbling and emotionally intensive retreat or workshop aren’t what will change your relationship with stress. These experiences can give you ‘aha’ moments or be a catalyst for making a decision, but the real change is how you engage with that stress at the moment.
The next time you feel that “omg no I can’t do this”, it’s as easy as one-two:
Identify your stressors
The first step is to identify your stressors with specificity. How can you do something about it if you don’t know what it is? A stressor is a specific experience that causes stress. For example, the desire of making others happy can create a stressor by overcommitting. Or when your manager comes by with some edits to your proposal and you feel that rush of “omg no!” It is anything that you find to be stressful.
Apply the 4 A’s of stress management
Once you have identified the specific stressor, you have informed choices to make. In our example of the proposal edits, you can choose to avoid working with the project further, you can alter how you engage with it (set time blocks or ask for help), you can adapt to the needs by moving other priorities around, or simply accept it. How can you use the 4 A’s to break down your stressor.
Try it for a week + see what happens!
So there’s no huge time sink here; simply taking a few seconds to analyse the situation when you catch your emotional reaction to go “omg no, I just can’t”. Sometimes it can feel that any of these four strategies is a cop-out or not a long-term solution. However, acknowledging and intentionally choosing any of those are far better than letting the tension rise and become chronic stress.
crosslinked and co-written with The Hedgehog Way