As an entrepreneur, I’m often asked the question, “Are you stressed out?”
Yes. Of course. Any other brain busters?
But it’s true. The unknowns of the future feel insufferable. So, yes, you could say that’s stressful.
However, it’s important to remind ourselves that life is simply a string of experiences woven together from one person’s perspective — big or small, controlled or out of reach. No moment feels as big as the one you’re living right now.
Here are five simple steps for dealing with stress.
A natural reaction to stress is to try to stop time and deal with the immediate moment. In this moment, we often forget to breathe. Similar to working out, when we attempt to burst through with that final push, we have a tendency to take a breath and hold it.
The first thing a personal trainer will teach you is proper breathing technique. Pushing a barbell off your chest is no different than moving through a stressful moment. Don’t forget to breathe — deeply and effectively.
Reflect without worry
The latter is an important distinction. Note your experiences, how you’ve arrived at the moment, and what was valuable then and now. You can’t worry about things you can’t change (which is the best advice I’ve ever been given) — decisions were made, and you likely handled the situation the best you could. Use this moment to reflect, learn and grow. But don’t dwell on factors that you can’t change.
Look from the outside in
Worry and stress are inside-out feelings. You feel stuck without a simple answer. If it was easy, then anyone could do it. When you step outside of yourself and see the bigger picture, you will see solutions you once overlooked.
Once you reflect without worry, you will be able to assess the situation more clearly and learn to shine a spotlight on areas for potential improvement. In Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, Chip Heath and Dan Heath coined this approach “the spotlight effect.”
They explain that “better decision making is the process of moving your mental spotlight to shine light on things we wouldn’t otherwise look at.” When you’re inside-out, your spotlight is very narrow. Take a moment to go outside-in to cast a wider light to put more of the moment into perspective.
Keep it simple
Take steps one through three to live in the moment, give respect to the situation and yourself, and address your options. We’re problem solvers, but don’t let your attempt to tirelessly solve the problem become the problem.
Sometimes in life, there is no right answer (or at least not one proper solution). Don’t wear yourself out on the complexities of the situation. Keep it simple. Believe in yourself. Be realistic. Move on.
You will feel stress in life — not necessarily because a situation appears to be hard to overcome, but because the situation is different and new. Take a moment to breathe, reflect without worry, open your spotlight, and learn.
In life’s most stressful moments, we find out what we’re really made of. Don’t just prove to others that you can deal with difficult situations, but prove it to yourself at a level you truly believe. That is called growth, and it’s the only way we’re going to build the muscles needed to lift ourselves back up.
This article has been edited.
Matt McCoy is the co-founder and COO of Scanalytics, a software company focused on presence detection, with a background in storytelling through consumer insights and big data. Scanalytics’ proprietary offering is the SoleSensor, an intelligent floor sensor, which anonymously measures real world foot traffic. The SoleSensor has been deployed around the world in industries like retail, events, trade shows and the medical space. With a simple plug-and-play installation, Scanalytics has aggregated over 15 million impressions and has been voted a top IoT company for 2015. Follow him at @ScanalyticsInc.