Ten life lessons on managing stress (that I keep learning over and over)

1. Asking for help doesn’t need to be as difficult as I make it sometimes.

“Is there a way you could help me with this?” or “How would you handle _____?” can be power questions. I’ve learned that there is a certain kind of lonely stressed-out feeling that I have when I really need to be asking for more help, guidance, or support. Identifying your own signals that asking for help would be (ahem) helpful, is worth its weight in gold.

2. Checking email is hardly ever the thing I should be doing when I do it.

The days I set good policies and boundaries around email are my most productive and least stressful. If you think people will not survive if you don’t respond to your emails instantaneously, consider whether you are training them to have this expectation (and how you could effect a change).

3. If I’m feeling overwhelmed, it’s worth stepping back and deciding on the one thing I want to focus on in this present moment.

In overwhelm, my tendency is to feel like I have to do everything. Focusing on one thing is the key to making progress and shifting my energy to a better place.

4. No one is harder on me than I am.

Life is much more pleasant if I treat myself the way I would treat a dear friend (and when I run my expectations for myself through the same filter).

5. If I have the choice of being happy or “right,” I’m almost always better off choosing happiness.

Digging my heels in or staying stuck in feelings of “rightness” or holding a grudge is exhausting and stressful and a big waste of my energy.

6. Going outside always makes me happier.

When in doubt, I should always go. Some of my happiest runs have been the ones where I returned soaking wet and mud-covered. The critical decision is getting my butt out the door.

7. Perfectionism does not serve me and all or nothing thinking is perfectionism.

If I’m feeling overwhelmed or incapable, perfectionism is usually lurking. The way out of the trap is to “just start” or break things down into smaller pieces, or change the criteria from getting an A+ to “spending 20 minutes on it” or something reasonable that I know I can accomplish.

8. Taking the time to get grounded and clear – even (especially) – when I am feeling rushed or stressed, always pays off.

It allows me to be more present, more myself, and more effective. Taking five minutes to meditate or breathe deeply, or create a clear vision of how I want my day to unfold has never put me behind and usually saves me time.

9. Starting my day by asking how I want to feel and what I’ll actually do to create that feeling in my day is a million times more helpful than simply diving into writing a to-do list.

Actually deciding that today I want to feel joy, or connected, or present and then evaluating how I will build that into my life has been a game-changer.

10. Henry Ford was right: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

My belief shapes my journey. If I move forward telling myself how painful something is going to be, or how much I’m going to struggle, that’s usually what happens.

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