Overwhelmed by Stress? Make Time for Joy!
I have known Joy for over 12 years and she is a good friend and now a professional associate. Before she officially became a therapist, I would seek out her opinion and counsel as a friend. It gives me great pleasure to have her as part of our CPGjobs network and have her contribute her skill set to the work place. CPGjobs is proud to bring Joy’s expertise to our community.
Do you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and there is never enough time to meet life’s demands? Think of this weight as personal and interpersonal stress that keeps your passion locked and throws off your internal and external stability. These stressors may be work-related, primary relationships, finances, health issues, and acute or chronic conditions. Stressors may relate to internal and external conflicts over power vs. powerlessness or control vs. helplessness. When these stressors reach a tipping point, the weight seems overwhelming. As a counselor, my role is to help “unpack” this weight, help each client find helpful strategies to lighten the load, and learn how to balance the stressors in life without feeling overwhelmed. In this article I will share a few key tips that fellow travelers have found useful.
“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” – Eisenhower
One of the first questions to ask is, “Am I carrying any unnecessary weight?” Another way of stating this is “Am I carrying other people’s urgency and priorities rather than maintaining efficient focus? Inspired by Eisenhower’s Decision Principle, Stephen Covey created a decision matrix in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, as follows:
- Not Urgent/Important
- Urgent/Not Important, and
- Not Urgent/Not Important (see The Urgent/Important Matrix).
Urgent and important can range from “My car won’t start!” to “Call 911 – I think I’m having a heart attack!” There will be life crises. They will never happen at opportune times. Overwhelming stress happens when we live as if each day is filled with urgent, important tasks without truly measuring the relative value of each one. Those who manage stress well plan long-term projects methodically, set limits, and leave room for the unforeseen because it is bound to occur. Those who struggle with stress may have difficulty setting clear boundaries between responsibility to self and responsibilities to others. Using the decision matrix can help clarify differences in perception on priorities.
Are your ears as open as your mouth? Do you give time as well as save time?
Interpersonal stress is a significant factor in the workplace, social world, and home life. It is a juggling act to balance the needs and priorities of others while asserting one’s one needs and priorities. This becomes even more challenging when unresolved traumas or issues from the past (old “baggage”) is triggered. Interpersonal effectiveness requires a strong sense of self, assertiveness, the ability to be a team player, and the ability to accept when things don’t go your way. When emotionally triggered it is helpful to remember that your brain may be associating current conflict with past moments related to power or control issues. Buy yourself some calming time by taking deep breaths, drinking a glass of water, and waiting to express yourself when you can do so effectively.
Here is a simple technique for communicating an authoritative request without “losing your cool.” Think of a sandwich – the meat is layered between two slices of bread. Use a 2:1 ratio of “inspirational” to “confrontational” to create a good sandwich; for example:
- First slice of bread: “I really appreciate your respect for my time by being punctual;
- Meat: “I expect your staff to be on time for department meetings as well;
- Second slice of bread: “I value your respect for my time and look forward to seeing this from your staff.”
With close relationships it is helpful to use at least a 5:1 inspiration to confrontation ratio. This involves practicing giving appreciation and stating needs in a calm, assertive way. Please refer to the phone apps at the Gottman Institute online bookstore; in particular, check out the “Appreciation” app and “Xpress Needs” app. Although these apps are designed for couples, the comments and questions can help anyone develop a practice of expressing appreciation and needs in an effective way. Also refer to the book, One Minute Manager, in which authors Kenneth Blanchard, PhD and Spencer Johnson, M.D. suggest that effective management relates to catching someone doing something right rather than viewing the world with a critical eye. Whether in management or not, this book reminds us that we all “catch more flies with honey.”
Managing stress effectively begins with a shift in perception. Sometimes the shift begins by focusing on challenges vs. problems, looking for solution-focused outcomes vs. finding someone to blame, and seeking help when life seems overwhelming. The weight of overwhelming stress is made lighter by sharing the load. Knowing who to trust and who you can turn to is half the battle. When you lighten your load, you make room in your life for hope, laughter, and joy.
Joy Kaylin offers confidential phone counseling at affordable rates through her private practice (see www.acrossthedividecounseling.com). Call or text 719-355-9598 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for an appointment.