Don't Let Stress Control You

Don't Let Stress Control You

How was your week? How about stress? Did you have a stress-free week? Or are you like most people I have seen in practice and in life who operate on constant stress due to something or someone? I get it. I’ll share with you some of my challenges this week. Well, there was work stress.

My office in Birmingham, Michigan was flooded as a result of some pretty nasty storms there. If you have ever had to bail yourself out of a flooded home or workspace, you know how "fun" this endeavor can be. This was coupled by an extra-heavy work schedule because I will be out on business most of the upcoming week. There was even more business stress. I had to ditch a company that I have endorsed for the past year because I found that they didn’t make customer service their highest priority.

Knowing that customers trust a company based on my endorsement means I want to make sure that they are treated respectfully and responsibly. I had to end my relationship when I discovered that the company did not meet my standards Tip: Read last week's post on having congruent values with everyone in your circle. It can keep your life on track and avoid those loose ends that nag you. There was personal stress: I have made a lot of painful changes in my personal life recently, which has put a different spin on the daily rhythm of my life. It’s like a low level constant sting.

Change is pretty awesome and it often accompanies growth. But you have to navigate through some of the stress that new change can bring before you reap the benefits. There was kid stress: My son Michael was taking a bath and I noticed a round red circle on his leg. I took a closer look, and yes. There it was. Every board exam I ever took was staring me in the face. The classic “bull's eye rash” associated with Lyme disease….sigh. Lyme disease isn’t a nationwide disease, so you may not be familiar with it.

However, if you live in the upper Midwest or Northeast, you're in danger of getting this nasty illness. If you don’t deal with this situation expeditiously, it can lead to a lot of discomfort. Sounds about a normal week for most of us, right? I’m sure you had your share as well. Here’s the thing: I have learned to compartmentalize stress in a very different way recently. Even though this week came with its fair share of stressors, I decided to still make it a fantastic week. I have made the choice not to let stress control me. 

KEY: Not to let accomplishment be synonymous with stress.  This was important. I’ve always had this self-talk: "Of course I have stress. Look at all I’m doing!" That’s not the role model I want to be for my kids or anyone else. 

Success is thriving without letting stress take you down. What I’ve learned recently is that you can control the mental and physiological affects of stress. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Dial In: Dial into how your body is responding to different stressors. Be really aware. Take time out just for a minute when you feel yourself start to stress and immediately clue in. Ask yourself what’s happening here. Just be aware you are starting to go into a funk.
  2. Change Your State: Change your physiology by shifting your body. This will help you change your mental state almost immediately. This may mean exercise, or shifting your body differently. But get your body in a different position. Do that immediately.
  3. Stop Stress Talk: Control any negative self-talk and replace with positive thoughts as quickly as you can. Practice saying what I call your “personal tag line.”  That’s a positive statement that is unique to you that keeps reminding you of who you want to be and where you want to go. I know when I stressed out in the past, I would think, gosh, this just isn’t attractive. I don’t want to be that person. That’s where the reminders come in. For Lance Armstrong it’s “Livestrong.” For Muhammad Ali, it’s “I AM the greatest”. Come up with your own tag line that keeps you on track when you start to go into negative self-talk or stress mode (and we all do).
  4. Repetition: Practice this drill over and over because repetition is the key here. Rinse and repeat. It really works. As you become more natural in your response with this, when stress hits, you will be more fluid in how you react and stress will diminish greatly.
  5. Control your body's stress by controlling the adrenalin. When you stress, stress hormones run through your body. This makes you crave sugar and fat, it ages you and creates hormonal hell. Shift your physiology to change this. That’s the key. Exercise or even shift your body in some way. You also control the adrenalin by regulating your breath. Be aware of your breath and if it is calm or shallow and choppy. Begin to say your personal tag line and regulate your breathing.
  6. Find a way to manage stress on a regular basis. I just took an amazing yoga class at EXHALE in Manhattan, and I was reminded how important just being quiet and breathing can be for your body. Whatever will take you down a few notches, you should implement so your nervous system is conditioned to handle stress.

One of my favorite things to do in the world is to share a meal with people I care about. These “happy hormones” reduce stress in a big way. Dinner parties, a restaurant with some great local food, it’s a big stress reliever for me.

Recently I was feeling a little apprehensive about a meeting I had coming up. I find in life when you need something or someone, they do show up if you pay attention. I met a lovely couple in a café in New York that own an amazing (and quite famous) jewelry store on Madison Avenue in Manhattan called Aaron Basha.

The Bashas and I talked as we ate and drank coffee for what seemed to be hours about everything from my upcoming meeting, business, and nutrition to what it takes to flourish in New York. Mr. Basha’s “Be Bold” discussion was one I will treasure forever. The relationship Mr. and Mrs. Basha shared was one of the most grounded and truly beautiful that I have ever witnessed.

I keyed in and realized after our time together, any pensive feelings I had or stress had completely dissipated. Find what does this for you. This is key. Enjoy!

Keep thinking big and living bold!

-Dr. Kellyann