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How To Find Steadiness In Times Of Heightened Stress

(February 8, 2023 Newsletter)

They say that if you’re always winning, you’re not trying hard enough – not taking enough risks, not pushing yourself to try new things.

Easy to say, harder to process the emotions when a risk goes sour.

After having a tech meltdown in a recent workshop, my emotional agility was put to the test. The trouble was that I had a full day of meetings ahead and no time to wallow in self-pity.

You’ve probably experienced this too – a setback smack in the middle (or start) of a busy day.

Luckily, since I teach leaders how to rise to challenges (and practice what I preach), I was relatively well prepared. The thesis is as follows – if you have self-awareness + a robust toolkit + a regular practice in the good times, you’ll know how to bounce back quickly in the tough times.

Here are some of the tools I employed that day:

  1. Called someone who I trust very much to get some perspective and encouragement.

  2. Danced in the kitchen to “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift while warming up my lunch.

  3. Wrote in my journal while I ate. In just a few minutes, I downloaded from my brain my Inner Critic’s beratements, a realistic list of things that actually went fine in the workshop, a gratitude list, and a list of my values and resources that were helping me get back on track quickly.

  4. Stepped into the fresh air and took 3 deep breaths.

  5. Spent quality time with my husband in the evening (a dance class and pizza, to be specific).

The time commitment ranged from a few seconds to a few minutes, aside from the pre-scheduled evening plans. I’ve learned that “I just have to move on” is not an effective option.

Stress cycles don’t always close on the first try and sometimes multiple tools are needed over the course of a few hours. All day I found myself employing a quick strategy, feeling better, then recalling what happened, feeling bad about myself, employing another strategy, and feeling better. All the while continuing with my regularly scheduled programming.

As I employed the strategies, each wave of embarrassment was less painful and the time that elapsed between them was longer. By the time my husband and I got back in the evening, the morning’s mess-up felt quite distant. As I write to you, I feel more proud of how I handled myself than embarrassed at what happened.

So tell me, what are the fundamentals that steady you regularly, so you’re prepared for times of heightened stress? How do you remind yourself of them when something goes wrong in the middle of a busy day?


What we’re reading and hearing

“Overlooking contextual and systemic influences on performance and organizational effectiveness results in costly errors. On the individual level, for instance, ignoring the role of supply issues and understaffing may lead to unfairly blaming work delays on dedicated employees. These employees may in turn leave, worsening the understaffing problem.” This and more.

The Digital Mindset, Part 1 and Part 2, Dare to Lead Podcast, 12/22

A must-listen for anyone who is trying to digitize parts of their work (from implementing CRMs to rolling out project management tools, etc.) and are meeting resistance from their teams.


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