Photo Credit: iStock
By Patrick Williams
We all have stress.
Even really good stress — like winning the lottery, getting married, or landing a dream job — can have dire consequences.
So even more important than stress management is “stress inoculation.”
Much like a flu vaccine, it prevents a worst case scenario and leaves you with resources to fight when stressors invade. And just like a vaccine, it may not fight off everything, but it will keep symptoms more manageable.
Booster shots are even available by preparing your self for resilience and emotional agility.
Here are 4 ways to vaccinate yourself from stress before it hits you with a severe overload.
1. Learn to embrace change.
Change is either chosen or unchosen.
Getting married, taking a new job, and moving to a new town are all examples of chosen change … which is certainly still stressful.
Unchosen change is more difficult to manage, as it comes unexpectedly. Examples include the death of a loved one, a medical diagnosis of cancer, an unexpected pregnancy, or the loss of a job.
Eventually, we have to accept unchosen change. We have to show the courage to adapt and learn from whatever is new, find supportive resources to assist with moving stressors to the background, and make new choices with forward-looking intentions.
A mantra I have lived by for many years is this: “Every experience is a good experience … eventually.”
After a proper period of grief, we must accept what is true now and recreate our life accordingly.
2. Banish energy drainers and cultivate energy gainers.
In my work with individuals and groups, as well as in my writing, I emphasize the purposeful task of naming and taming our “energy drainers” — those unresolved challenges that suck the energy from us.
These may be simple things — like clutter that needs organizing or repairs that need completing — or they may be more difficult tasks such as courageous yet needed conversations with friends or loved ones.
When you banish your energy drainers, you will sense a refueling of energy to tackle other things in a more timely manner.
And, after you learn to handle these energy drainers, you can focus on purposefully inviting “energy gainers” into your life.
What gives you energy: Short vacations with your honey? Attending art exhibits or theatrical events? Walking on the beach, the mountains or country trails by a lake?
When energy gainers are more prominent in your life, you will have the stress inoculation you need when bad stuff happens. All these activities act like booster shots for the soul.
3. Engage in an active “process of illumination.”
Life is continuously providing us with messages.
When we don’t listen, the messages become lessons. When we don’t learn, the lessons become problems. When we don’t address the problems, they become crises. When crises go unresolved, they create chaos in our lives.
The greatest students of life seek to live on the levels of messages and lessons, not waiting for them to become problems, crises or chaos. Living in a proactive manner through these messages and lessons makes living much more enjoyable.
As is often said, no matter how hard we plan, shit happens. It’s how we choose to respond that matters most.
Often we hear people use the phrase “process of elimination” when people are handling things that are bugging them. I prefer to consider a “process of illumination.”
What is the current situation teaching you? What can you learn from it about your self?
To inoculate yourself against damaging stress, look at these moments as opportunities, rather than allow yourself to get swept up in feelings of woe and despair.
4. Sort our your priorities.
To inoculate yourself from future stress, make a list of your energy drainers, big and small. Don’t forget to include the ones that you dread. Believe me, you’ll feel renewed in body and spirit.
Tackle them one at a time in one of these ways:
Do it - This is the method I use all the time. Basically, just get it done. Take it on, get it over with to get it off your plate (and off your mind).
Delegate it - If you need help from another, delegate it (like organizing your office) or partner with another for task assistance.
Dump it - If there are things on your energy drainer list that cannot be completed, (e.g. you cannot change another’s behavior or personality) just dump it off your list. It’s out of your control. Focus on what you can do, not what you cant.
Delay it - Or you can delay it. This is not giving permission to deny or avoid. Just delay into the future until you have the resources available to complete the removal of this energy drainer.
Patrick Williams is a YourTango Expert who is passionate about coaching and dedicated to ensuring it remains a respected profession. Learn more at his website.
More from YourTango: