The art of mastering stress in 3 simple steps

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Things are still not getting better as quickly or in the ways we want. Job scarcity, burned out employees, and terrible moral are still at an all-time high. This week, we’re diving into how to deal with the stress, so you don’t get stuck, overwhelmed, and burned out. There are two options when things are stressful. Either deal with it in a way that helps you keep moving forward and not freaking out, or deal with it in a way that makes you a crazy person that can’t relax and stop obsessing about it. It’s your choice, but if you don’t choose on purpose, you will continue to spin and get deeper into the frustration. Listen and learn what to do instead.

Want to get help with your specific situation? Let’s schedule a coffee chat. I offer a limited number of 1:1 coffee chats each week. There is no charge for this call so spots fill up fast.  Grab time on my calendar at https://lindsaylymancoaching.com/call and let’s get you feeling unstuck today.

Hey y’all, how you holding up? Okay, it’s the second day in a row it’s been snowing, and it’s October, and I’m not okay with it. Luckily, it’s not sticking to the ground, but I’m choosing to take it as my sign that I am allowed to set up my Christmas decorations the day after Halloween. So come at me if you want, but when the weather is feeling as it’s feeling, I’m going all in. I love me some Christmas crap around my house.

 

All right, today we’re talking about emotional health in the workplace. I’m seeing a lot of themes from clients, from friends, from myself, from things on social sites, and it’s themes around there really just is this low morale. Leaders are lacking empathy; they’re tired, they’re burned out. Some of them aren’t great, some of the tools they’ve had to be able to support and promote employees are gone, and it’s not necessarily getting better in the ways we wanted or as quickly as we wanted. And there’s still a lot of this fear and scarcity around job security.

 

Um, I know a lot of the people I work with as well are working in the United States on different visas, and so it’s a real thing to lose your job, there’s a very significant impact. Even if you’re not here on a Visa, there is a significant impact, but it’s hard, it’s really hard. So I want to talk today about what does it look like to have a healthy response to some of these stressors that are happening? And the flavor of the stress will change over time. There’s always going to be stress, but how do you have a healthy response to the stress versus an unhealthy response to the stress?

 

So as you’ve heard me talk about in hundreds of episodes, it’s okay to not be okay. I’m not here to say just be happy, look at the bright side when you’re physically, genuinely full of stress and overwhelm and anxiety and worry from these things happening. I talk a lot about it’s okay to not be okay. You need to breathe, you need to relax, you need to feel your way through it, you need to find ways to play, you need to take care of yourself, take care of your body, take care of your soul.

 

What I want to point out is, and what a lot of people miss, is this is not a you do it once and you’re done. It’s important that you learn how do you respond to stress in a healthy way, and then you’ve got to go and do it hundreds of times a day because there’s constant stressors coming at us all the time. There’s traffic, there’s emails, there’s unread messages, there’s other humans out in the world, like there’s so many things that are impacting how we’re feeling and stressing us out. You’ve got to learn how do you manage the stress and how do you do it hundreds if not thousands of times a day. When we’re not applying these things hundreds of times a day, it keeps us chasing and trying to control things that you cannot actually prevent from happening.

 

It’s no secret, towards the end of my 12 years at Amazon, I hated the operation planning process. It felt like it was pointless, it no longer worked for the way the company was structured and the size of the company, and it felt like such a heavy lift that honestly was completely pointless. I can’t tell you how many op ones we’ve written that the senior leaders never actually read or cared about. And PS, it’s never gone according to plan. Or it’s things like we’ll go and try to automate things, automate data, automate the NBR so that we’re spending more time working and less time giving status updates. All for it. But here’s the thing, when we’re trying to control these things to prevent feeling like we’re wasting time, to prevent feeling like we could be using our time in more efficient ways, the problem is it doesn’t work. Because your brain’s going to go with you. Your brain will find something else that it thinks is pointless and a waste of time. So what you need to learn to do is how do you manage that stress cycle within your body, within your brain, so that no matter what the flavor, no matter what the op one thing is, no matter what the thing is we’re trying to automate, you know how to manage the stress that comes up with that, because there’s always something else along the way. You may get rid of one bad team member, one bad project, one bad leader, but there’s more of them out there. The good news is at the same time, if you only have one good leader, one good project, one good coworker thing that you’re excited about, there’s more of that out there as well. We are going to have stress in our lives no matter what, so let’s talk about how do you deal with it in a healthy, consistent way, and why is it so important to acknowledge that and to stop trying to control it.

 

Okay, so here’s what a healthy stress response looks like. It looks like step one, you experience the stress. Okay, thing happens, op one, bad leader, recession, lose your job, terrible morale, whatever that thing is that’s stressing you out. Number two, you do what you need to do to process and deal with it, right? You feel it, you take care of you, and three, you recover, right? It’s like, I think of it like a complete cycle, it’s a complete circle. You experience it, you take care of yourself, you come back to a good place, and you rinse and repeat. And you’re going to do that hundreds and thousands of times a day.

 

Here’s what most of us do. Most of us, by default, have an unhealthy response to stress. So again, step one’s the same, you experience the stress, but step two, instead of trying to give yourself permission to feel it and deal with it and take care of yourself, in an unhealthy stress response, we freak out and now we try to tighten our control over things and prevent things from happening and make sure people like us and make sure it doesn’t happen again. And you never get to step three where you recover. Step three in an unhealthy stress response is, you may come down out of that intense stress a little bit, but you’re holding on to it and freaking out and still trying to control the thing, so you’re not actually recovering. This is essentially where trauma comes into play. I’m not a trauma expert and do not pretend to be one, but at its very basic, simple core, trauma is stress held in the body, right? Your body has memory, it is stress that you are holding on to very deeply, very rooted in a lot of things. Okay, so we want to be completing that cycle, experience the stress, do what you need to do, and recover. That does not mean experience the stress, try to control it and freak out and prevent it from happening, and then just recover a tiny little bit.

 

I was working with a client the other day, and this client is amazing and brilliant and wonderful and has some big goals they’re going after. And we were talking about this, and when I mentioned this stress cycle response to them, it made… and we talked about kind of how that applied to their certain situations. And then I said, and then you’ve got to go do it hundreds of times, and they were like, wait, what? They’re like, I have a hard time remembering to do it once, now you want me to do it a million times? And I was like, uh, yeah, because stressful things aren’t just happening to you one and done, they continue to happen over and over and over again. It’s okay when you know how to respond appropriately, you can rinse and repeat.

 

I kind of think of it as like a little kid learning to potty train. If you’ve ever helped train a child or been around one, there’s a lot of things they have to learn, and they have to learn how to pay attention to their body and feel what it feels like and not be scared of using the toilet. And when they go and do it, we’re overly excited, and we’re like, yay, I’m so proud of you, you did it! And we make a big deal out of it because we want them to feel good. It’s a little bit scary when you’re going to try to do this the first time, and you’re going to be afraid of some silly things, just like kids are afraid of the toilet, or my kids hate toilets that automatically flush because they don’t know what to expect and it’s so loud, I get it. But when you know how to do this and you practice it over and over, now it’s not hard for us as adults, we go to the bathroom quite a few times a day, and we don’t freak out about it. It’s now just part of the natural rhythm of us being an adult. It’s the same thing with this stress response. The more you practice it, the more you do it, the more it just becomes automatic and a part of what you do to be emotionally healthy.

 

So step one, you’re going to experience the stress. Step two, do what you need to do to process it. What do you need while you are feeling stressed? Stress is tension held somewhere in your body. You need to be breathing, you need to be relaxing, you need to purposely be drawing your brain to those different parts of your body where you’re tightening your muscles and holding that tension and breathe and relax through it so that your body chemically can process that stress and get those hormones and chemicals out of your body. But what else do you need? Maybe you need to talk to someone, maybe you need to go outside in nature, maybe drink some water, take a nap, get off social media, maybe you need to stop drinking so much, maybe you need a hug, go for a walk, take a long bath or a shower, go do something artistic, listen to music, dance. There are things out there that help you do what you need to do to process and deal with the stress.

 

I will tell you three of the most important, basic, simple ones that so many of my clients are very quick to brush off is sleep, movement, and natural light. We all know we need a good night’s sleep, we all know your body needs some type of movement, we all know we feel better when we just go outside and get some natural light for a couple of minutes. But it’s fascinating to me that we’re so quick to brush these things off. It’s like, yeah, yeah, yeah, but what else do you have? It’s like we want it to be harder, we want there to be a better gimmick. But simply focusing on those three things, sleep, movement, and natural light, while you’re stressed, it’s going to help you close that cycle so much easier, so much faster than so many of the other things we try. Because what if it really was just that easy? And again, you’ve got to do it a lot of times, but maybe this week just try one thing. Maybe from one meeting a day, you’re going to leave five minutes early, and you’re just going to go outside and walk around the block and come back in, right? You’re getting movement, you’re getting natural light, you’re just going to give yourself five minutes to just kind of decompress, close that stress cycle, and come back at it. Just see what happens. Maybe you’re going to go to bed 10 minutes earlier two times this week. Again, just try it, just see what happens.

 

You have a lot of stress happening to you all day, every day. You’ve got to learn to close those cycles or they spin and spin and become anxiety and trauma and overwhelm and panic attacks, and eventually, we come crashing down into just burnout. Maybe you need to ask a friend to give you, like, a good eight to 10-second hug. Just ask them. It’s going to feel weird, but just see what happens physically in your body, feel the difference in your stress levels when you do that. Maybe you’re going to sign up for an art class once a week and go see how you feel. There’s a reason you feel better after doing these things.

 

Here’s the thing that’s crazy to me. We all have a lot of stress, and we’re all looking for ways to manage it better, but you know the things that actually work. If you ever find yourself thinking to yourself, I know I should do this more often, but, and then you have some excuse of like, there’s so much to do, or it’s hard, or I don’t have time, or it just doesn’t work with my schedule, or my kids, or my manager, my company, my boss, blah, blah, blah. Listen to yourself. You know exactly what you need to be doing, go and do that thing. You are not saving lives, it’s okay for rich executives to be upset, it’s okay to miss deadlines, it’s okay to not be able to do it all. It’s not okay to waste yourself away into nothing, it’s not okay to sacrifice your mental and physical health to hit some arbitrary made-up goal, it’s not okay to ruin your body by not sleeping, it’s not okay to stress so much over work that you can’t shut your brain off and have healthy relationships outside of work, it’s not okay to put off important relationships, important conversations, important connections until tomorrow, because what’s the point waiting for retirement? No, the point is learning how do you enjoy it, how do you like it right now? The point is today, if you’re not living the life you want today, what makes you think it’s going to be any different tomorrow?

 

I’m telling you, it’s these little shifts along the way. Then once you’re relaxed, once you’re back in that safe place, then you can go and do those big things. Then you can go and look for a new job and have that hard conversation with your manager. You can go all in on that relationship or end that relationship you know you should. You can move your body, you can buy the house, you can try the new thing. When you know how to experience stress, do what you need to do to take care of it and recover, that’s the point, that’s when you have made it. You’re already good. This is where the magic happens. This is when we can go and try to help people that are struggling with some really big, hard things because we know how to take that stress, do what we need to take care of ourselves, and recover and keep showing up to help each other, to love each other, to connect with each other, to have healthy boundaries, to say no, and to be really successful and to have the career you want and to make more money than you want and to have the title you want and to have fun while you’re getting there.

 

It does not have to be hard. Learning to manage your stress is the key to getting there. My offer to you is to try one of these things this week and just pay attention to how do you feel? Do you feel less stressed? You know what to do, please for the love, just go do one of those things. You are amazing, you are worth it, you deserve it. Nothing is going to change until you learn how to manage your stress.

 

All right, you’re amazing, you got this, we’ll talk soon. If what you’re learning from this podcast is helping, this is just the beginning. Each week I offer a limited number of coffee chats so that you and I can connect one-on-one and talk specifically about what’s going on for you. You’ll leave this call feeling more hopeful and motivated, but I’m also going to teach you a few things to try right away to get unstuck. Space is very limited, and these are free, so grab your spot before they’re gone. Click the link in the show notes or go to lindsaylymancoaching.com/chat and sign up today. You got this.

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Hey, I’m Lindsay Lyman

I spent the last ~12 years growing my career at Amazon. I’ve built teams, launched new products, and created my own jobs. As a certified coach, I teach people how to manage the noise in their head to feel motivated and valued at work again.

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