By Jan Bruce
You can think of living your life and chasing your ambitions as stressful, or you can think of it as thrilling. When you think of it as thrilling, you are doing what psychologists call "reframing" -- and it's critical to shifting your experience of stress. After all, a life without thrill is a boring life indeed. It may be safe, but offers you no opportunity for growth. Facing your fears isn't easy -- but your ability to reframe it as a positive is key.
But while you want to be thrilled, you also want to feel sane! This is where the rubber meets the road. Maintaining sanity while chasing these lofty ambitions, though, is anything but easy. Growing a career, finding and maintaining love, raising children, building financial security and nurturing a passion are just a few of the enormous undertakings that make up your life's work, and trying to do it all can be overwhelming. The question then, is how we turn a situation of constant pressure into one of productivity and -- more importantly -- pleasure.
At meQ, I teach people the tools and techniques for confronting life's challenges in a responsive, not reactive way -- by identifying the thoughts and emotions that derail your attention and energy. By looking below the surface of your own conscious thought process, you can unearth unseen motivations and beliefs that are driving your behavior and limiting your growth. By helping you become an expert on your own thoughts, actions, behaviors, you can stop trouble before it starts, and keep stress under your control.
Your goal isn't to change what's "out there" so you don't feel stressed. It's to build your resilience so that you can stay strong in the face of anything. That means not just replacing negative thought patterns and behaviors with positive, supportive ones, but shifting your perspective so that you feel connected to something bigger than your to-do list. All of your physical, mental and emotional behaviors together create who you are and how you'll fare in the face of stress. So let's make that version of you the best it can be.
Here are the key strategies for maintaining equilibrium so that you're not entirely thrown off by your efforts, nor mired in anxiety or indecision:
- Try to manage your stress, not eliminate it. When I talk about maintaining balance, I mean maintaining the ability to find your balance on shifting ground. The goal isn't to eliminate stress from your life, but rather, to make sure that you have tools to handle whatever comes your way so that stress doesn't get the best of you.
- Recognize that it's hard work. Though the meQ approach offers an easy, accessible framework for addressing stress and thinking traps, the work can be daunting. Making time to exercise or summoning the will to eat correctly, not to mention having the humility to ask for help when you need it, are no small tasks. If you can approach your challenges with respect for the difficulty of the task at hand, you might find that you're more accepting with yourself as you try to meet these challenges and more proud of yourself when you succeed.
- Consider it practice. There's no final competition, event or performance with this work, no final test of whether you "beat: stress or not. Instead, it's something you'll come up against every day. If you view every day as an opportunity to revisit and improve this approach, however, you'll find that you accumulate lots of victories.
Now that you have these tools and perspectives, get to it -- there's no better time than now to start!
Want to make an even more dramatic change? Take our 28-day challenge to address your stress. You'll get a free assessment that helps you identify the root causes of your stress and have 28 days of unlimited access to your customized action plan to help you tackle them.
Jan Bruce is CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, www.mequilibrium.com, the new digital coaching system for stress, which helps both individuals and corporations achieve measurable results in stress management and wellness.