Good morning and happy Monday. I hope this morning missive finds you and yours both safe and healthy.
In a recent webinar I gave, on the topic of stress management, more than 80% of the participants reported experiencing significant levels of stress surrounding COVID-19. A similar percentage also said their levels of stress were trending up, not down, as the weeks of “sheltering in place” have continued, while at the same time, finances, perhaps even employment, have become more uncertain.
Many of my friends have indicated that being home, in close quarters with their families, has caused challenges, even within loving families with strong relationships. Patience and tolerance seem to be running low at a time more is needed. Isn’t this so typical of life in general? Sometimes when life needs us to be at our very best, it is so easy to be at our worst.
Today, I offer a powerful stress-management approach I have labeled, “Making the Shift.”
If you’re a parent, do you remember teaching your teenager to drive? Do you remember what it felt like to sit in the passenger seat of your family vehicle as your teenager sat in the driver’s seat for the first time? Do you remember pumping the non-existent brake pedal as you sat on the passenger’s side of the car? Can you remember your stress level as they approached a busy intersection for the first time, perhaps going just a tad too fast?
How about sitting in the passenger seat when your spouse is behind the wheel, perhaps distracted by something out their side window, not seeing the breaking traffic ahead? Or maybe you’re behind the wheel. As an experienced driver you may feel confident and in control under normal driving conditions; but now, in heavy traffic on snow-covered mountain roads, you grip the wheel tightly as your stress level escalates out of control.
Here is the point. Our stress level tends to go up, or down, in direct response to our sense of control. Stress goes up when our life feels out of control. Our stress level goes down when we feel like we’re in control of the world around us.
COVID-19 has thrown our sense of control, in almost everything, for a giant loop. It is no wonder most of us are feeling major stress. So many things we took for granted are now beyond our sense of control, i.e., “Will I be able to find toilet paper, let alone food to eat? When can I go back to work? When will this pandemic end? How will it end? How will I pay rent this month? Where will my family’s next meal come from? Will I bring the disease home to my family if I go to work?” These are unsettling questions. They are examples of things beyond our control.
So, what is the powerful mental shift for reducing stress? Focus on what you can control, regardless of how much of your life feels out of control right now. We don’t control the outside world, but we do control our inside thoughts. Each of us has almost total control of our thoughts, actions, decisions, how we spend our time, and the attitudes we display for others to see. For example:
- I don’t control what is reported on the news. I do control if I watch the news, when I watch it, or even which news source gets my attention.
- I don’t control what others post on social media. I do however control what I choose to post, or whether I spend time on social media at all.
- I don’t control what others do or don’t do. I don’t control the respect others show for social distancing measures. I do control my actions and behaviors. I can be the change I desire to see in the world.
- I control my breathing, food choices, activities, exercise choices, how I spend my free time.
- I can choose to meditate, read, study, learn a new skill, exhibit a positive attitude, the list is almost endless.
We control more than we might initially assume. That is where our power is for limiting the stress we feel.
Are you are feeling significant stress in your life? Now might be a great time to learn more about mindfulness. There has not been a better time for increased levels of emotional intelligence than now. William James was correct when he said. “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
I have always enjoyed the Serenity Prayer; it feels timely now as most of us are experiencing life-impacting levels of stress. Here it is.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
I also learned a modified version of the same prayer you might enjoy as well; it goes like this:
God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change,
The courage to change the one I can,
The wisdom to know that person is me.
Let’s all work at being our “best selves” this week. The world needs us to be at our best right now. If not now, then when?
Everyone can make a difference, and everyone should try. Be your best self this week.
Have a great week. Stay safe. Be well. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Keep pedaling!
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”
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- “It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye
- “Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.” – Henry Ward Beecher
- “In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.” – Lee Iacocca
- “Doing something that is productive is a great way to alleviate emotional stress. Get your mind doing something that is productive.” – Ziggy Marley
- “Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there’.” – Eckhart Tolle
- “You cannot always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.” – Wayne Dyer
- “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” – Leo F. Buscaglia
- “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz
- “Remember that stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life.” – Andrew Bernstein
- “Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.” – Oprah Winfrey
- “In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” – Fred Rogers
- “If I really want to improve my situation, I can work on the one thing over which I have control – myself.” – Stephen Covey
- “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius