Posted on Nov 5th, 2006

1) Make a clear distinction between stress and pressure. Stress comes from the outside. It’s what is imposed upon us by others, such as deadlines, bills, and that jerk that cut you off in traffic. Pressure is what we tell ourselves, how we think, about the stress.

2) Give up the silly notion that you can completely reduce or eliminate the stress in life. Stress is inevitable if you are alive. The goal is to manage it well.

3) Learn to say no. It’s such a small but powerful word. Yet we take on much more than we can reasonably handle when we don’t say no. Picture this scene from an old Mel Brooks film - Brooks is in a medieval dungeon being tortured by being placed on a stone table with a board on top of him, covering his body. Stones are being placed on the board, slowly increasing the pressure on him. Here’s the punchline for our purposes - Brooks is yelling “more weight, more weight, give me more weight.” Learn how to say NO!

4) Stop trying to eat a pizza in one bite! In other words, break down large stressful events or projects into manageable sizes.

5) Rest. Rest. Rest some more. According to the story, even God rested one day out of seven. Not a bad model to follow. Or how about these sage words from Lily Tomlin - “For fast acting relief, try slowing down.”

6) Watch your language! Pay attention to the language you use when thinking about the stress in your life. This applies to how you talk to yourself about stress - “I’ll never get all this done!”, as well as to how you define situations - “This is the worst thing that could possibly happen, and besides, it’s not fair!”

7) Guard how many things you allow to pull on your time and on your mind. I have a theory that our culture has gone insane and we just haven’t realized it yet. We have allowed so much stress, demands and have to’s into our life that we fail to realize it’s not normal or healthy. It’s a frog in the pot situation - place a frog in boiling water and he’ll do his very best to get right out. But place the same frog in a pot of water at room temperature, and then slowly turn up the heat. He’ll cook. Be careful how much you take on and allow into your life.

8) Make a list of all the things you like to do for fun. Then consider how many you have done lately. After you get over the shock, pick one and go do it.

9) Get organized. You will live longer and easier. If you say that you are too busy to get organized, then I thank you for proving my point. I’m not an organized person by nature. I’m lucky that Lauren has the gift of organization. If you don’t know how to organize, get help from someone who does.

10) Use these suggestions. Don’t just read this column, smile, say that makes sense and then walk away. Taking action, doing something about it, is one of the most powerful stress management tools available.

Implementing just one of these ten tips will help you to master stress. I wonder what would happen if you used all ten?

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