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Make Stress Work for You

By Dana Couillard

Helping people understand how they currently perceive their worlds and helping them learn how to monitor and change perceptions has been the most important part of my work for the past 20+ years.

I spent approximately two years developing and facilitating mental health programs for the Canadian Mental Health Association, which was some very rewarding work. One of the phrases that I remember from that time is, ”No one is immune to mental illness.” I think it is easy to extend that to, “No one is immune to the impact of stress!” I find both of those statements have a ring of truth about them.

During that time, I ran across a three-step system that helped me change how I look at, or perceive, stress.

This three-step process is an excellent tool for you to be aware of how you perceive stress and to learn how to modify that perception to your advantage.

Step 1: Acknowledge Your Stress. Simply see and acknowledge your stress. Labeling our stress consciously and deliberately moves it from the anxiety, fear portion of our brain to the rational, thinking part of our brain. We move from operating from a fearful, reactive place to a position where we can be thoughtful and deliberate. We can take “control” of how we think (one of the four psychological needs for well-being!)!

Step 2: Own Your Stress. Why would we want to welcome stress into our lives, especially during a pandemic? If you think about it, we only stress about things that we care about. By owning our stress, we connect to the positive motivation of our personal values and purpose behind it.

Step 3: Use Your Stress. Connecting the stress to your core values and purpose allows you to leverage stress to achieve your goals and connect more deeply with the things that matter most. Ask yourself one question. Are your typical stress responses in alignment with your core values and purpose?

Once you have answered that question, ask yourself a second question. How can I do the most good or help others with their needs? Focusing on the needs of others always takes the spotlight off our own fears and anxieties. By shining the spotlight on the needs of others, we ironically begin to lift our own clouds. The positive hormones like dopamine and serotonin begin flowing in our brains.

Prior to the pandemic shut down, I was actively working with several clients in person. Then mid-March 2020 landed with a bang. Life changed for everyone everywhere.

Beyond the stressors I felt for the safety of my family, I also became stressed about the future viability of my business. I recalled the three-step process that I had learned and began implementing it on a daily basis.

First, I acknowledged that my stress level had gone up and why it had gone up. MAKE STRESS WORK FOR YOU!

Second, I owned the stress. I connected how I was feeling to my purpose and values related to my clients and my business. There were only certain things that I could control or influence. I had to put all the other incoming information aside.

Third, I leveraged my commitment to continuing to work with my current clients by learning how to use technology for different ways to communicate with them. Was this a challenge as a boomer? Definitely!

But . . . . I was ready for the challenge because I had connected the purpose of my business to the needs of current and future clients. I am extremely thankful for having four grown children and their spouses who could guide me through learning about Zoom calls, webinars, Mail Chimp, LinkedIn, Vimeo, and other resources to be able to reach out to others.

The three steps again:

1. Acknowledge it.

2. Own it.

3. Use it.

Sound easy? Sometimes.

Doable? Absolutely - with daily practice!

As always, it’s your choice. Have fun!

~ Dana


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