I got a book deal. The day that my editor called and said, “We want to buy your book!” I was feeling like this:
And then, quite suddenly, things were moving quickly. – Contract for my attorney to review and for me to sign. – First few chapters due (already? Yes. Already). – New author packet arrived in the mail, going over the entire trajectory of what the publishing process is like.
Meanwhile, I was also training for a half-Ironman and still working with the trainees in the Courageous Living Coach Certification, and I was developing the curriculum for Facilitate With Impact. My daughter had her birthday party coming up, my husband was planning for a hiking trip which meant I’d be doing solo parenting, my entire family would be visiting in a few weeks, the to-do list was mounting.
These were all good things—the things that you want to have happening in your life—and yet I was feeling stress and overwhelm and couldn’t even take my own advice about getting things off of my plate. Everything was a competing priority.
How to Deal With Stress, Tip #1: Lifestyle, or temporary
When I facilitate a Breathing Space circle, I’m very clear that there is no way to time-hack your way out of feeling overwhelmed. Overwhelm happens, and that’s fine, so long as we have realistic ways of dealing with it when it arises. It frequently happens because we pile way too much on our plates, and we aren’t willing to put anything on the Stop Doing list. You can’t live joyfully while also choosing burn out.
At the same time, I needed to reconcile something: the choice to do a lot during this season of my life? It wasn’t a lifestyle. It was temporary. There’s a difference between the kind of stress that comes from your chronic lifestyle choices and the kind that is only temporary.
Naming the difference? Hugely beneficial.
How to Deal With Stress, Tip #2: Access the body
It simply doesn’t work, to try to pretend as though heart and head are separate. We live in a culture that has conditioned us to at best prioritize logic over feeling, and at worst to disregard feelings altogether. You might find yourself at any place along that spectrum.
Stop. Breathe. (Try taking a deep breath, right now). I realize that self-help types are always telling people to stop and breathe, but they’re only doing that because it genuinely works as a way to deal with stress. It relieves stress, gets you thinking more clearly, and can even provide insight into a problem you’ve long struggled with (I call that somatic awareness).
How to Deal With Stress, Tip #3: Shift Your Mentality
I’ve interviewed a number of highly successful entrepreneurs. Here’s what they have in common: they don’t view the challenges of their lives in the same way.
When they get really busy? They don’t obsessively think, “I’m so overwhelmed with all of these clients; what will I do?”
Instead, they think, “Hell yeah, I worked for this! I am absolutely booked with clients, and it rocks. Excited for my vacay, too.”
Mentality is everything. You can be completely overwhelmed by the requirements of the training program that you’re enrolled in—or you can feel proud of yourself for putting some skin in the game and excited about how it will feel to reach the finish line.
You can be flat-lined by the demands of the book contract, or you can feel like it’s the best opportunity you’ve been handed and you’re going to run that ball to the end zone (I’m not usually into football metaphors, but this works).
If shifting your mentality about something you’re doing feels like such a monumental task that you just can’t do it, no matter how hard you try? You probably shouldn’t be doing it.
How to Deal With Stress, Tip #4
Know when to quit.
People often talk about how to be courageous as an either-or equation and use platitudes such as “Quitting isn’t an option.” I vote that quitting is a great option when you have tried everything your power to shift your mentality about something, and it’s still a miserable endeavour.
Let’s be real: fear is very, very convincing. Understand the difference between fear telling you to give up, versus the writing on the wall that is clear: This just isn’t you; it’s not your soul’s path; that’s how it goes, sometimes.
When the writing is on the wall, heed what it says.
Quitting is a privilege that few people who have it seem to exercise. In ten years, you’ll be ten years older. You can be a decade older having maintained the status quo of something that grinds you down a little more each day, or you can be a decade older having decided to start making sane, sustainable shifts towards what you really desire.