You’re juggling an endless series of escalating demands, struggling to keep up—and blaming everyone and everything for your stress. But blame is an energy-wasting trap: you can’t purge these tasks and people from your life. Where does your stress really come from?
The answer is, you. Consciously or not, you’re choosing to get overwhelmed by conflicting emotions as you grapple with competing demands, deadlines, and pressure to deliver.
Stress is a choice, and that’s powerful knowledge. It means that stress is not inevitable. Defuse the building blocks of stress — worry, agonizing, and ruminating – to gain perspective and make room for optimism.
Stop Chewing Things Over
Instead, list the tasks that are weighing you down and brainstorm outrageous ways to resolve them. Try the “Fairy Godmother” approach: if I had a magic wand, how would I wish away this problem? Write your “wishes” down, no matter how impossible. Once you have some ideas, focus on one or two of the most practical and ponder how to make them work. Free your imagination to open the door for ingenious new strategies.
Exchange Certainty (It’s a Myth) for Curiosity
“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy,” as Helmuth von Moltke astutely noted. Replace your need for certainty with a sense of curiosity. This requires acceptance of three basic truths: a) absolute certainty can’t ever happen b) setbacks are only temporary c) your curious mind gives you the tools to emerge from your stressed-out rut. Use your natural sense of curiosity to flex your mental maps, and you won’t feel destined to experience disaster if things don’t go as planned.
Test Feared Outcomes and Potential Solutions
Design experiments to confront your concerns. Test for the veracity of the feared outcome and try out a possible solution simultaneously in a low-risk situation. You’ll learn what you need to know without risking much if things go dramatically wrong.
When the inevitable failure happens, and we know it will (after all, no plan survives the enemy), avoid suspecting yourself as the culprit. Self-blame is a counterproductive thought that only stresses you out. Instead, examine all the plausible alternatives that may have taken you off course. Seek out objective evidence to guide your next steps. Put the brakes on negative thoughts by writing them down as they happen. Set a time to deal with them later, or even the next day. At that later point, they won’t carry the emotions of the moment with them, and you can more easily discern whether they remain relevant.