Are you tangled up in stress that keeps you from focusing on your tasks? Maybe the morning traffic started you off on the wrong foot (even if that traffic was just in the bathroom with everyone trying to get ready at the same time). Maybe your website crashed and you are struggling to recover what information you might save. Maybe it’s the pressure you put on yourself.
No matter where the root of stress resides, it will have the same results. Stress will sap your energy, break your concentration, and crumble your foundation. If you want to stay focused then find your ways to keep calm.
Roots of Stress
A town manager wanted to spruce up the look of the community. He commissioned the planting of trees between the sidewalks and the streets. Every summer, the trees provided shade for those walking along the sidewalks. Every fall and spring, the colors of the leaves painted the roadways.
It looked good, but what couldn’t be seen was the roots spreading below the surface of the town. As the trees grew, so did the roots.
Many years later, the roots began to break up the sidewalks and streets. The very trees that had seemed so beneficial in the beginning became a destructive force for the life of the town.
Stress performs in many ways like those trees. Sometimes, the things that begin to create stress in your life started as something that seemed beneficial. It could be that it still is beneficial, but how it is left to grow (or when it is not maintained) allows it to overwhelm your day.
Few things spark the rise of stress like someone telling you to be calm, but the ONLY remedy for stress is calm. It’s a catch 22. You need to be calm to defeat stress, but the direction to remain calm can cause you stress.
Find Your Way to Calm
- Take a breath
- Take it in
- Take a moment
- Take a chill
- Take ten
Take a breath.
When feelings begin to take off, a deep breath will help rein them back in. Breathe in through your nose and mentally count to ten, then breathe out through your mouth to a count of 15. Breathing out longer than you breathe in will help to flush your system with oxygen. Oxygen is good.
Take it in.
Take in the whole situation before you let your feelings tell you what to think. Are you seeing it all? Are you hearing it all? Are you understanding it all? It’s easy for feelings to boil when they are allowed to focus on less than all.
Take a moment.
Hold back on responding in the heat of the moment. When feelings are bubbling up, walk away (figuratively or literally). Wait until the feelings smooth down so you can respond with intention instead of with feelings.
Take a chill.
It’s rarely as intense as your feelings make it out to be. Relax. If it’s not essential for your well-being or the well-being of someone close to you then let it go.
Take ten minutes to make a list of things that bring you joy, make you smile, or that you have gratitude for. When you write them down, you have a way to review the positive things in your life.
Little Bits of Stress Wreck the Whole Shelf
A man moved into a new apartment and began to arrange things to his benefit. Each day, he set out to empty one box and move closer to being fully settled.
He hung up his clothes in the closet, sorted out items in the kitchen, and slowly worked his way through the piles of moving chaos.
When he came to the last box, he realized it was items he wouldn’t need on a daily basis. “It’s better to store the box,” he told himself. He set the box on the shelf in his closet and then congratulated himself for finishing his task.
A few minutes after he had finished, he heard a loud crash coming from the bedroom. He rushed in to find everything he had neatly arranged in his closet now scattered on the floor. The brackets that held the shelf had collapsed under the weight and pressure of the items he had stored on the shelves.Having your foundation set wrong (or incomplete) or having your anchor a little off can lead to stress that causes a collapse.
He cleaned up the piles and called a repair service to fix the shelf.
“I didn’t have much weight on there,” he told the man when he arrived to fix the shelf.
“It wasn’t the weight. The problem was the brackets weren’t installed properly. They are in the wall and not in the studs. Any weight would have eventually caused them to give.”
It’s not just the weight that can cause stress. Having your foundation set wrong (or incomplete) or having your anchor a little off can lead to stress that causes a collapse.
Where Are Your Braces?
Is there someone else who can do it better or faster than you?
You can do it all, but you can’t do it all at once and you can’t do it all without giving in other places. If you have a rushed schedule, find someone that does it faster than you. If you have limited resources, find a way to trade out for what you need. If you find you are in over your head, reach out to your colleagues and connections for assistance.
TIP: Know your strengths and play to those. If something comes up that is not in your wheelhouse then reach out to someone whose strength dwells in that space.
Is what you are trying to get done dependent on others getting their part done?
Don’t wait until the deadline to check-in. Be in regular contact with the other parties. Not only will it help you to have your part in place, but it will keep others accountable for their part.
TIP: When you have to depend on others to put together a project, do all you can do on your end and choose not to stress about their end. All the stress in the world will not make others do what you need them to do.
Is there a deadline for what you need to do?
If there is, turn that deadline back a week and commit to having it completed by the new date. When you get things done ahead of time, you create space for the unexpected. Space eliminates the room for stress to root.
TIP: If you don’t have a deadline for a project, create one. Having a set time pushes you to make progress towards what needs to be done.
Stress happens when we are overwhelmed, overstretched, or overly eager. When we take on too much or take on things that are outside of our skillset, we scatter seeds that can sprout up stress. Shift away from the stress by finding your ways to keep calm and stay focused.
Plant different seeds by being open and honest (with others and with yourself) about what you can do, what you want to do, and what you will do.
You can reach your success. You can live out your hopes and dreams. You can build that business or possibility that you’ve been imagining. All it takes is focus and determination – and a willingness to keep investing a little bit at a time.
Stress will try to break it all down (sometimes before you get the first brick in place). Shift away from the stress by finding your ways to keep calm and stay focused.
More Tips for Finding Your Calm
- Make calm a priority. Whatever works for you – yoga, mediation, a long walk by the water – make it a priority for a few minutes every day.
- Have a calm accountability partner. Know the person you can call or contact that will douse the rants with some cold calm.
- Have a plan, and remember to include some focused flexibility (for when the rug is jerked out from under your plan).
Did You Know?
When you relax, you keep stress at bay? A few minutes of relaxation will not only keep you focused, but it helps to keep your body healthy. As few as twenty minutes a day of basic relaxation will have lasting benefits.
Relaxation will work to create:
- Decreased heart rate
- Decreased rates in the respiratory system
- Decreased anxiety and stress
- Decreased muscle tension
- Decreased chance of disease or illness
- Decreased rate of breathing (which reduces the need for oxygen and is, therefore, easier on the system)
- Decreased risk for arthritis or joint pain (when relaxation is practiced over the long term)
- Decreased headaches and overall pain
- Decreased blood pressure
- Decreased anger and frustration
How are you keeping calm and staying focused? Share your secrets in the comments below so we can grow the calm that will allow for us to live awesome.
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