Sunday, March 27, 2011

Turn around a bad day - stress management tip

I recently had a day that, relatively speaking (meaning nobody in my life was sick or injured), got off to a stressful start: I received a text first thing in the morning indicating a significant problem with a project I was working on, and in my morning email was a note indicating a major shift in another project. Both issues would require quite a bit of time to resolve/get back on track. I could feel the momentum of stress.

Then I thought about Barbara Fredrickson's concept of positivity and spirals. Determined not to let this spiral into an even worse day, I decided to plan an evening that I could look forward to. I emailed my partner and suggested that we go out to dinner that night (to one of my favorite restaurants) and then watch a movie (I had a good dvd waiting). So, all day, as I made my way through the stress, I also looked forward to the evening. The positive anticipation of the evening balanced out the stress of the day, and I maintained my focus rather than getting caught up in a spiral of stress or negativity.

The day was a good reminder for me about how to manage stress. We can't always plan a fun evening to balance a difficult day (sometimes time, money, or other commitments won't allow it). However we can try to plan something for later in the day or week, that will give us something positive on the horizon -- maybe it's just a walk with a friend, or a phone call to a distant friend, or an ice cream cone, or putting the head phones on and listening to a few favorite songs -- something that we do for ourselves, because we know it makes us feel good.

This strategy doesn't make the stress go away, doesn't cancel the pain of a loss, etc... but it can provide a touch of something positive, a sense that we can bring in some positivity even when things are hard. The point isn't to try to ignore or remove the stress (it's real), but rather to keep something positive in there and avoid negative or downward spiral.

Cheering you on in your work!

photo by HLS

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