When you feel stressed – maybe at work, maybe in your life overall – it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and like there’s nothing you can do to change it.
When clients come to me for career change work, they typically have steam coming out their ears, feeling frustrated and stressed. They want to make a change yesterday.
Over years of working with clients in that situation, I have discovered that there is an abundance of opportunity to make your life better right where you are. And it all starts with recognizing the changes that are in your power to make.
Here are seven broad areas of change you can explore when you’re stressed or things feel like they’re going sideways.
Change your situation
This is what most people default to. If you have a bur under your saddle, the most obvious thing is to remove the bur, right? That’s a great move if it’s possible, but sometimes it’s not.
Change your habits
More and more, I’m a huge believer that the road to a better life is paved with better habits. Examples of habits that could help change how you experience your life include:
A regular grounding practice (e.g., meditation, deep breathing, or yoga)
Eating a healthier and more energizing diet
Drinking enough water
Giving some habits the heave ho (for example, reducing or eliminating sugar) can have an equally positive impact.
I know those are all things you’re familiar with. Nothing earth-shaking there. But are you doing them? If not, pick one and focus on making it a habit. When you do, I’m willing to bet you will notice a difference.
Change your stories
The stories you tell define the world you experience. Two people can have the exact same thing happen, and have two dramatically different experiences. The difference? How they interpret it – i.e., the story they tell about it.
Next time you find yourself feeling stressed and reactive, ask yourself, “What story am I telling here? Could I tell a less stressful one? Is there a different way to interpret this? What meaning could I give this?”
Change your focus
What you focus on shapes what you experience. On top of that, your brain only has limited space for what it takes in and absorbs. Most of the information coming at us every day gets filtered out.
Taken together, those two things mean that the more you focus on what is positive, supportive, and uplifting, the greater a percentage of your total awareness it will occupy.
It’s just logic and common sense. The more you focus on what’s right, the less room you have for attention to what’s wrong. The more you explore possibilities, the less time you have to dwell on limitations. The more you cultivate gratitude, the less space there is for thinking about problems.
Change your action
Taking positive action can have a real stress reducing impact. It gets you out of helpless victim mode and gives you a greater sense of control. Not to mention the fact that without action, positive change is unlikely to happen.
Change / expand your support system
We humans evolved to be social beasts. And that definitely applies to managing stress.
Stop and ask yourself, “What kind of support do I need? Where can I get it?” Then start reaching out. Think in terms of intentionally creating support systems in your life.
The support might be emotional support. Or coaching. Or mentoring. It might entail advice, or guidance, or even just an opportunity to vent. It might even be simply a hug or a someone holding a compassionate space for you.
Change your direction
Finally, if your here-and-now isn’t working for you, and all you can see in the future is a path to more of what doesn’t work, it might be time to change your direction.
That might be a full-on change (e.g., a new career), or it might be identifying your own individual source(s) of meaning and purpose and committing to bringing more of that into your life.
The very act of committing to positive change can have a powerful impact. I frequently hear from career change clients that they started feeling less stressed and frustrated once they committed to working with me, not because anything had changed externally, but because they knew they were taking active steps to get out of a situation that didn’t work for them.
Wrapping it up , I want to emphasize the key point here.
You are in control. And you have options.
When you feel stressed, there is SO much more you can do than just eliminate the source of stress. Stress is an inevitable part of the human experience. The more adept you get at making choices that allow you to more fluidly navigate it, the happier you will be.
Thanks Ranjeet! I'm glad it resonated with you. I think that last piece is so important. It's easy to get trapped in that stress cycle if we don't find ways to pry ourselves free. And we seem to live in a culture that promotes what's stressful much more than what helps us feel a sense of peace.