I have a few mantras that I tell myself when I feel stressed, that help me regain a stronger, more positive mindset:
- Pressure is privilege – people in the most senior positions tend to be put under the greatest pressure because of their senior position (think of Teresa May trying to negotiate a successful Brexit outcome). Rather than viewing pressure and challenge as something to be avoided, I think of them as an great opportunity to test my character, to develop myself as a person, and to deliver my greatest contribution.
- No pressure, no diamonds – in geological terms the rarest and most valuable gemstones can only be formed under the most intense pressure, and I think that life can be like that. It is only through facing extreme adversity that the most valuable outcomes that you seek can be produced.
- What’s the worst that can happen? – It’s easy to exaggerate in your mind how badly something might affect you if it goes wrong or if you don’t perform how you would like. It can be useful to stand back and get some perspective by identifying the genuine impact of “the worst thing that can happen”. A classic example is sitting an exam; some people worry about failing an exam so much they would rather not sit it in the first place. “What’s the worst that can happen” if you sit the exam? If you do fail it, you can come back a couple of weeks later and sit it again, hopefully having worked at the areas you found difficult, and have a far better chance of passing it second time around. You may have to pay a resit fee which can be annoying but that really isn’t ‘the end of the world’. In fact, the extra work you had to put in will actually mean that your technical skills will be stronger than if you’d passed first time.
Rick Rigsby once said..
“I don’t worry that you will be successful, I worry that you won’t fail”
- There is nothing in my life that I didn’t choose – whether it’s my marriage, my children, my qualification, my business, my house project, my voluntary activities or my social life (all things that cause me stress and worry from time to time) every single aspect of my life has been chosen and created by me, and no one else. Reminding myself that nobody forced me to do any of it, and that in some cases I have had to fight very hard to get them, helps me to stop feeling down and to crack on with real enthusiasm. I think “well if I chose this, I’m going to have a jolly good go at it!”
- A few years ago I would have loved to have the problems I have today – as you progress through life you tend to find that the pressures you face take on new dimensions; maybe managing the productivity of a team of people, rather than just worrying about your own workload. I often find that the biggest sources of stress in my current life are those very things that I dreamt about and aspired to a few years ago. In many respects it is the fact that they were important goals that I set myself that is why they now feel stressful; I’ve worked hard to get here and I want to get them right.
- Will the outcome of this still affect me a year from now? – sometimes things can seem like a ‘big deal’ at the time when in reality they only seem that way because you are stuck in the middle of them and don’t have a true perspective on them. Many of the things we get really worried about won’t actually have much lasting impact on us, raising the question of why we let them worry us so much. The passage of time, like distance, has a way of making everything seem smaller and smaller.
I really hope that some of the thoughts I have raised here can help you to think about responding to stress in a positive way, to understand how important stress actually is in creating what is important to you in your life, and above all to minimise your experience of anxiety.