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By Triffany Hammond
Ladies — stress is REAL and … it’s here to stay.
I see this reality in effect all the time with the women I help. Whether they’re a CEO or a stay-at-home mom, my clients constantly find themselves in varying depths of stress at all times. And, as you know, women are amazing because, for the most part, we don’t simply extinguish the fires as they arise, we actively put plans and procedures in place designed to prevent similar fires down the road.
But, this means: If we don’t learn how to use stress to our advantage, women end up absolutely buried by anxiety in no time. And, there is a BIG difference between ‘stress’ and 'anxiety:’
'Stress’ is having a lot to do — “I’m busy” is a factual statement.
“Anxiety’ arises from how we FEEL about having a lot to do — "I’m overwhelmed” often describes the feeling of being busy. When this emotional reaction pairs with self-deprecating beliefs (I should have known better, or I’m the only one who cares), feeling 'a little bit anxious’ can quickly snowball into full-blown anxiety.
So, how do truly HAPPY women handle stress (and keep their anxiety in check)? It’s not that they have less stress in their lives. Instead, they’ve learned how to re-frame their perspective about stress in the following ways:
1. They handle stress with acceptance.
After all … what we resist, persists. Strong women abhor complacency; we constantly seek (and expect!) growth in ourselves and in the people in our trusted circles. As a result, us gutsy gals know that stress is inevitable. It will always show up. Resistance is futile.
As such, any self-flagellation about what we should (or shouldn’t) have known/done is totally wasted energy and only increases anxiety unnecessarily.
When you understand that stress is normal and expected, feelings of anxiety become a valued reminder to simply pay attention. That uncomfortable feeling says, “Look out. Something is shifting out of balance!” Like a warning bell, anxiety alerts the savvy woman that she has waited longer than she should to pay attention to her own needs.
2. They find positive opportunities in stressful situations.
Every challenge offers an opportunity to make a positive choice in response. Wise women know that anxiety is here to tell us one of two things:
It’s time for some self-care
It’s time to do some personal work around an issue.
(And, often, the two go hand in hand.)
So, when anxiety starts to rise, happy women take a break, spend time with friends, say ’no’ to extra commitments, and do whatever else it takes to hold healthy boundaries while they refuel their spirit. The personal work part is a little trickier because we usually grow most by leaning into what makes us uncomfortable. For example, if you struggle with being patient, it’s usually only in aggravating situations that you’re given an opportunity to practice patience.
But, seizing opportunities to strengthen your areas of weakness this way is what I call 'doing your personal work.’ That slight shift in perspective — “I’m flustered, now I have the chance to try some things that help me feel in control” — helps you use stress to your advantage and stop anxiety before it begins.
3. They understand that 'challenge’ always precedes accomplishment.
Busting ceilings takes exertion. Anyone who has ever built a business or overhauled the PTA at your child’s school knows that in order to effect any real and lasting change, you first meet with a host of obstacles (financial, personal and emotional). All great change-makers know that our biggest challenges give birth to our biggest successes.
Embrace this truth and, in no time, you’ll see hardships as a sign that great things are coming. And there’s no better way to speed up the process of their arrival than by staying calm, cool and collected with the wisdom that sunshine after the storm is inevitable.
4. They’re open and REAL about what’s stressing them out.
Fake it ’til you make it will only get you so far. Strong women are open and honest about their experiences … including the painful ones.
Hearing women we admire admit their own struggles empowers us, helping us master our own fear of criticism and own our hardships, as well.
Most people, whether it’s your children or colleagues, gravitate toward people who walk in their truth. Authentic people who boldly state, “This is hard and I’m doing it anyway,” inspire others to believe: It’s hard for me, too … Maybe (like her) I can do it anyway, too!
Sharing our vulnerabilities links us together in powerful ways that sharing our strengths cannot. We are forever bound by our humanity in those 'weak’ moments that ultimately prove our strength beyond measure.
Stress is unavoidable.
But powerful women who truly love their lives look stress in the eye and see infinite possibilities and positive choices within themselves. When you make stress useful to you, there is no place left for anxiety to exist … at least, not for long. Anything is possible once you accept that even stress and anxiety can help you reach your goals.
Triffany Hammond is a YourTango Expert, internationally published author, international teacher and coach, TEDx speaker, entrepreneur and creator of the F.A.I.L.* to Win: (*For All Is Love) Empowerment Program. Find out more here.
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