Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is probably the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life.
One piece of good news is you don't have to have a life full of stress. You can have a joyful life and career if you use these ten stress-busting strategies....
1. Remind yourself, "You'll never get it all done, and that's okay."
I was raised in a family where my parents said, "First comes work; then comes play. When you get all your work done, then you can play." Perhaps you were raised the same way. The trouble is, if you take that advice literally, that you must get all your work done before you play, you would never play. You need to remember no matter how hard or how fast you work, on the day you die there'll still be a few things left in your in-box. There's always more you could do. Let it go. Remind yourself, "you'll never get it all done and that's okay."
2. Avoid mind binders.
Never say such things as "I get so stressed out during times like this ... There's so much to do ... I just can't take this any more." The more you think or say such things, the more stress you'll have. In my new book, The Payoff Principle: Discover The 3 Secrets For Getting What You Want Out Of Life And Work, I go into great detail on all the various Mind Binders you need to avoid and the exact process for eliminating them from your life.
3. Do only the most important things.
People say to me, "I've got my friends, my family, my company party, my church, decorating to do, gifts to buy, food to cook, and dozens of other activities on my plate. They all seem important. So how do I take your advice and do only the most important things?"
First, all the people in your life are NOT equally important. Focus on the folks who mean the most to you and get to the others later in the year. Second, all the activities on your schedule are NOT equally important. Select three activities that would bring the most meaning … for YOU. Make sure you do those three things … and don't add anything else to your schedule unless you truly have the time and desire.
4. Choose your fights carefully.
Gatherings at work and at home often bring difficult people together. Don't get sucked into a conflict unnecessarily. Don't get involved unless you can answer "yes" to these three questions: 1) Does a threat exist? 2) Is it worth a fight? 3) If I fight can I make a positive difference?
5. Set your spending limits in advance.
I hear so many people talk about the high cost of living.... but I don't buy it. It's not the high cost of living that causes the holiday stress. It's the cost of living high. So set your spending limits in advance. Know what you are comfortable spending and stick to that decision. But I'll give you a warning. You will be tempted to spend more because somebody else is spending more. And you'll be tempted to spend more to make up for the time you didn't give someone this last year. You will resist those temptations if you set your spending limits in advance.
6. Pay attention to your body.
If you're not quite sure if the holiday stress is getting to you (or the stress at work on any given occasion), listen to your body to see if you're off balance or have too much stress. Your body will always give you some signals (such as more frequent headaches, muscle tensions, eating changes, or sleep difficulties) when you're over-stressed. Pay attention. If you don't listen to those signals, your distress will lead to disease.
7. Practice an attitude of gratitude.
It's all too easy to get stressed out and it's easy to get somewhat negative about that. But you can eliminate that stress by practicing an attitude of gratitude. Simply put, the more thanks you give, the less stress you'll have. So let me recommend a simple exercise for you. Take two minutes to list all the things you're thankful for. And then take a walk outside, by yourself, and say out loud a thousand times, "Thank you." And what will happen? When the stresses start coming in your direction, your list of thanks will come back into your head and cancel out those negative stresses.
8. Be an actor.
Instead of reacting to other people's holiday expectations or demanding behavior, choose to respond in a way that you feel good about. Don't come down to their level. Let your personal and professional enthusiasm bring them up to your level.
9. Do a check up from the neck up.
Examine your attitude. 85% of people are programmed negatively. What about you? Do you fall into that category? The way you find out the answer is to examine your first reaction to any bit of news you might receive. When you go to your desk and find a note from your boss that says, "See me immediately," what is your first reaction? Do you think, "Great, the raise is coming early this year"? Or is your first reaction, "What did I do wrong this time?" 85% expect the negative.
There are three things you can do to get you started in that direction. First, set the goal of getting a better attitude. Second, do some affirmations. As silly as it sounds, tell yourself, over and over again, "I'm a positive person with a positive attitude." And third, ask a couple of people to hold you accountable, to praise you when you're showing a more positive attitude and to encourage you when you're getting down.
10. Remember you can change.
Don't buy into the big lie... when people say, "I can't help the way I feel, that's just the way I am." You may not know how to change your attitude but it is totally changeable if you simply spend five minutes a day practicing the strategies listed above. You can always change for the better.
Each of these ten strategies is a gift you give to yourself. Which will you choose to give yourself?