Conscious Competence in Stress Management

Recently I talked about a way to reduce your stress during the upcoming holidays. If you live in the U.S., you probably had your first chance to practice over Thanksgiving. How did you do? Did you have any “aha” moments?

As a quick recap, in the post I just mentioned, I talked about changing the story you are telling yourself and discovering that it changed the meaning of the event… which in turn, reduced the stress (if you changed the story in a helpful way. If you didn’t, you may have increased the stress. Oops.)

In the post I used the illustration of having to deal with Uncle Fester and his irritations. Just about everybody has an Uncle Fester (or occasionally an Aunt Acid). Whichever you have, the solution is not to expect them to change, but to change your expectations.

So, now you have had a chance to practice. Was it a triumph for you… or less so?

If this is your first encounter with recognizing your stories and trying to do something with them, you may not have even realized that a story was going on until after the fact. You know — that time when you are cooling down and going back over what you should have said. About then is when you remember about stories.

If that’s you, that’s okay. It’s a good start. You are making progress even though it may not feel like it. If you keep on, you will soon progress to the next stages.

If you have already been through that stage, then maybe you caught yourself in the middle of the flare-up and realized what was going on. If that is your situation, Congratulations! Your awareness is growing. It is progress that you are becoming aware sooner.

Unfortunately, you are in the middle of the situation. And while it can be a bit difficult to extract yourself, it can be done. You might try simply pausing and saying, “I don’t think I want to continue this right now. Sorry.” (They can take the “Sorry” as an apology for the situation or for you stopping the contention. The ambiguity is your friend in this case.)

If they attempt to continue or try to goad you into restarting, simply repeat, “I don’t think I want to continue this right now.” If you are in a position to, leave their presence. (It is very difficult to continue an argument, or badgering — or whatever the situation is — if you are not physically present.)

Again, congratulations! You are making progress.

Even better, maybe you were able to recognize where things were going and “head it off at the pass”. If so, double congratulations! You are becoming skilled at recognizing the situation and taking action to prevent it. Keep up the good work.

Finally, you may have practiced this enough that you recognize the story you are telling yourself and that you don’t like where it is leading. So, you examine the story, find a better alternative story and use that story. You are becoming a master at “mastering your story”. While life will continue to throw things at you, you are becoming adept at addressing the issues in ways that strengthen you rather than debilitate you.

So, where do you stand in it all? Did it work for you? Or did it raise questions? Perhaps you have a new insight from it. Whatever it was for you, I’d love to hear about it. Go ahead and use the Comments and tell us.

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