One of the issues I deal with, as you all know, is how to handle stress so it doesn’t, well… stress you out.
However, I’m well aware that it’s not that easy sometimes to figure out why you’re stressed and equally if not more difficult to fix it so that you don’t get stressed out when the same situation arises again.
To help out a bit I’ve developed a kind of journal or trigger analysis table which can be used if you’re not that great at pinpointing and analysing your feelings (let’s face it, not many of us are!).
This tool can be downloaded and printed off so that you can fill it in when something stresses you out.
I find it most helpful after the event because then you have the luxury of a bit of perspective which helps. It’s very self-explanatory and won’t take long but will help focus you on a couple of things:
1. What your triggers are – often you’ll see a pattern when looking back at things that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
2. It makes you think about prior learning which in turn means you have to consider whether that prior learning is still relevant or not (I’ll explain this more below).
3. It asks you to think about your feelings rather than your gut reaction and how you could handle things differently if you came at if from a different reference point.
Basically, we get stressed about stuff because of old reference points i.e. we learned how to behave and feel based on similar situations in the past. In order to help us cope better we need to find new reference points – whether this means remembering different scenarios or creating new ones.
The hardest thing about any change is the change itself. Most people like to feel safe and for a lot of people that’s ‘knowing’ – how to react, routine etc. The only way to not be stressed is to figure out what stresses you out and learn to react differently to it.
Use the fifth column to try and pinpoint what assumptions you have which make you react or feel a certain way e.g. when you get called to the boss’ office you immediately get stressed because in the past when you’ve been called in you were shouted at.
Column six is all about finding a new reference point i.e. were there times when you were in your boss’ office and didn’t get shouted at? If not, maybe you should try and make one?
Finally, column seven looks at whether there is an outcome you could think of which didn’t require the same amount of stress as you exhibited in this scenario E.g. ‘Yes, I get shouted at every time but she never threatens to fire me and she manages everyone the same so it’s not like I’m singled out. It’s just an uncomfortable experience for 5 minutes.’
This tool isn’t just for stress either. I mentioned confidence as well and it is useful as a confidence building exercise as well, just follow the same steps above.
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