Business can be stressful. Cold calls, networking, creating content, presentations, etc. There is always something else to do. It is easy to be overwhelmed! Stress is a national problem. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, most Americans are suffering from stress. In fact, 44% are reporting their stress levels have increased over the past five years.
Most of us can’t give it all up for a hammock and non-stop piña coladas on a tiny island somewhere, we have to learn how to deal with stress, or better yet, make it work for us.
Think of why you went into the business world in the first place. Perhaps it was because there was a company you were desperate to join, maybe you couldn’t wait to start your own company, heck maybe you just wanted to make the boatload of cash that your English degree wasn’t providing. Whatever your reason, you made the big and exciting decision to enter the world of business. You were probably excited about it, telling friends and family all about what you were doing and what it would lead to.
However, here you are a few years or even a few decades down the road and you are feeling tired, overwhelmed and stressed.
Well, much like the stories you were telling yourself and others when you started in business, it is time to create your stress story:
1) What’s it saying?
It’s important to know that stress trying to send you a message. Maybe it’s letting you know that you are taking on too much and it’s time to take some things off your plate. Maybe it’s telling you that you really care a lot about one particular thing and you should put the majority of your focus on it. Maybe it’s telling you that it’s time to switch to a different company whose corporate culture fits you better.
Picture your stress as a mythical creature, like a fairy or an ogre. It is trying to get a message to you, but it doesn’t necessarily communicate with words. Since this creature is very different from you, it can be hard to understand. But it is ready to lead you on a journey if you are willing to pay close attention.
In your mind’s eye, turn your stress into a character. Whether big and terrifying or small and twerpy, picture exactly what this character looks like, sounds like and what message it is trying to convey
2) What tool does it provide? What need does it have?
Every story has a challenge, that’s what makes it exciting. It is easy to try to run away from stress, escaping it with things like alcohol, wasting time on social media, or other escapes. However, if you look your stress character right in the eye, you will discover the solution to defeating it.
Maybe your stress monster has been brought on because you have embarked on a new challenge. Everything is new, so it’s scary to deal with. However, the stress of that challenge will fade with time. Your “monster” just needs you to believe in yourself and trust things will get better.
Perhaps your monster is a giant mouth who keeps eating up all of your time and leaving you feeling like you are always running to give it more. This monster might be trying to tell you that you need some time to rest. Imagine how tired that monster must be having to constantly fill itself. Why is it never satisfied? Maybe the monster is trying to live up to someone else’s expectations. What if you let it know that it was okay to take a break? To enjoy what it had instead of constantly moving on to the next thing?
3) What change does it inspire?
While not every story ends with a “happily ever after” all stories cause the characters to change. What have you learned from your monster and how will it impact your life?
Your monster is there to let you know about a change in your life. Perhaps the monster is just letting you know how much a new project means to you, or is the normal pressure that a person faces at times of growth and change. Or maybe the monster is desperately trying to warn you to slow down, change companies or focuses. Maybe it’s time to start writing the great American novel on the weekends! Whatever it is, the monster represents change, and that change is important.
Now that you have all the elements together, it’s time to put together your stress story. This short tale will give you control over your stress, and turn it from a force of nature to avoid, to a tool to help you evolve and grow.
Use the template below to create your story
I USED TO _____________________________________________________________
MY MONSTER LOOKED LIKE ______________________________________________
MY MONSTER WANTED __________________________________________________
MY MONSTER TAUGHT ME _______________________________________________
NOW I _________________________________________________________________
Here is an example from my life.
I USED TO be terrified of networking. I would do anything to avoid it and the thought of going to a networking event gave me a panic attack
MY MONSTER LOOKED LIKE a pair or rolling eyes judging me placed atop a giant mouth talking over me
MY MONSTER WANTED to be acknowledged and listened to. When I looked closely at it, I realized the eyes weren’t just rolling to mock others. Instead it was constantly trying to check out what everyone else was doing. It was scared of what people thought of it. It was loud because it was sure that otherwise no one would listen
MY MONSTER TAUGHT ME to realize that other people were scared too. He taught me to listen to other people and let them feel seen. That simple realization completely changed the way I network. Now I no longer worry that everyone is judging me. I assume everyone is nervous and treat them the way I would like to be treated. Suddenly networking feels simple and natural.
What’s your stress story, and what is it here to tell you? Your monster is scary, but it’s there to help you grow, and amazing things are just beyond it.
I Believe In You. You’ve Got This
Erin is a writer, storyteller, and self proclaimed nerd, and we love her.
You can reach Erin at erinrodgers.contently.com
and on Twitter: @mediumknight
For questions about this article, please reach out to Erin (above) or to us here.
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