Stress, worry, consternation—it’s a part of life. It’s easy to get balled up, worried and all in a dither. But most of the things that we worry about and that we allow to stress us out, either a) probably aren’t going to happen or b) in truth, probably don’t matter that much.
I want to share a few ways you can deal with stressful situations, real or not.
Related: How Great Leaders Stay Calm
1. Get perspective.
When we were in the middle of navigating an IPO—which was probably business-wise the most stressful point of my career—we were in a financial collapse, and we knew there were thousands of people counting on us to get this done in the right way. It was a very tough time.
In truth, I was being pretty difficult—from their perspective—on what they wanted versus what I wanted. Realistically, if they ever showed up one day and said they were just going to fire me because I was causing issues, it would have been justifiable from their end.
One of the things that helped me when I would get myself all worked up was stepping back and thinking, You know what? This isn’t like I’m living in the Soviet Union where if this doesn’t work, I’m going be sent to a labor camp or shot behind the building.
The worst thing they could’ve done was tell me to go home. And then I’d have had to figure out what was next. If I had gotten myself all balled up and worried over what if this and what if that happens, then I was not going to be effective at dealing with it.
2. Remember the point.
When it’s hard to think, rise above and remember where you’re headed, almost like lifting your body and floating over the situation. Ask yourself, What am I trying to accomplish here? You’ve got to get clear in your thinking and focus on what you want the result to be.
Nobody else can do this for you. Let’s be honest, nobody is going to worry more about your physical and psychological well-being than you—not your husband, not your wife, not your boss. Developing the ability to mentally get in a reflective place and detach yourself so you can keep yourself on course is your job. So rise above and remember what your goal is and how you want to get there.
3. Turn down the noise.
We are in a very noisy world now. I know I sound like an old man, but when you’re so inundated with stuff that you don’t know where to look, of course you feel stressed. My email inbox fills up by the hour. Alerts on my phone, text messages, breaking news. It is so easy to get balled up worrying about stuff we have no control over.
I’m not saying don’t look at the news, don’t be interested in what’s happening in the world, but I am saying you have the choice not to dwell on it. I mean, think about the number of times in the history of humanity that people go, “Oh my God, this is happening! It’s all over!” Well, guess what? It hasn’t been all over yet.
You’ve got to turn down the noise so you can focus on what you have control over.
Related: 11 Strategies for Managing Stress
4. Pick one thing.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Once you turn down the noise so you can see what part of all that you have control over, you’ve got to pick something and take action.
What’s important that you can do today to make your situation in your life better? Prioritize and act. What is it that I need to get done today that’s going to check something off that I worry about or that bothers me? What actions can I do today to deal with something that’s causing me stress?
If you focus your actions on things that will actually make your life less stressful, guess what? It will be.
Look, life is short. It goes by very fast. If the doctor walked in right now with a bad diagnosis—when all of a sudden there is a real problem in your life, something that just thinking positively isn’t going to fix—I guarantee you 90 percent of the stuff in your brain that you’re worried about right now would evaporate. It would not even exist. You wouldn’t give a flying flip about it.
If it isn’t that big of a deal, relax and let it go. I’ve watched business grudges and anger destroy people, destroy careers. Holding grudges or having hate for someone is like trying to kill them by drinking the poison yourself. It just eats you up. It doesn’t eat them up.
I listen to talk radio from time to time. People call in all mad—so upset over local taxes or whether they’re going to build a whatever. I mean, you would think the world was ending. I’m not saying don’t be community conscious. But I can watch people get so fired up over things and I wonder, what’s really going to change about their life if that happens?
Realize that life is short. You’re not going to get a do-over. Let it go and go grow.
6. Have fun.
I believe laughter is one of the great cures for everything that there is. You need people in your life who you can spend time with—and not just rehashing everything that’s either wrong in the world or wrong in your life. You need people you can be with to cut up and laugh so hard your sides hurt.
But one thing I observe is that people who are super-stressed tend to attract other people who are stress creators rather than stress reducers. We create relationships for networking or connections or what-can-you-do-for-me. One of the things I see in the world today is a very, very high fun deficit. A lot of relationships are just feeding us stress and anger and fear.
I like to go have fun and not be “on.” I don’t want to be in a position where I’m worried about everything I say. I like to be around people who just know me, and not me as John Addison the Leadership Editor, former co-CEO and all that.
It’s very important in life to have relationships where you’re just you. Stress is usually optional. Choose to relax and enjoy life.
Related: How Successful People Beat Stress
John Addison is the Leadership Editor for SUCCESS and the author of Real Leadership: 9 Simple Practices for Leading and Living with Purpose, a Wall Street Journal and USA Today best-seller. Renowned for his insight and wisdom on leadership, personal development and success, John is a sought-after speaker and motivator. Read more on his blog, and follow John on Facebook and Twitter.