Stress Management: Living Life on the Edge

iaap's picture

It used to be that our lives were fairly predictable. Go to high school, find a spouse, have 2.1 kids, live in a house with a picket fence, find a good job and stay there until we retired with a gold watch on our wrist, then gracefully pass away.

Some of us might have a couple of jobs in the course of our careers, but, for the most part, we'd find a niche where we were successful and settle in. In today's world, we never know from one minute to the next (literally) whether our stocks are going to crash and wipe out our kids' college funds, if loans will be defaulted and our homes will be sold on the courthouse steps, or if one day we'll go into the office and find that our cubicle has been dismantled and we've been left a cardboard box for packing up our belongings.

Living long-term like this creates mental anxiety, physical symptoms, psychological stress, and worries about security issues like money and your family's future…to name a few. It doesn't look like things will be getting any better, so what can we do to live with sustained ambiguity and stress and still have a life? Here are some thoughts.

  • Remember the serenity prayer? "Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." That's a place to start. Let go of your need to control. You are living in a world that is out of your control.
  • Don't worry yourself so far into the future that you can't appreciate today. Long-range planning is now 2-3 years for companies (or less). Although it goes against what Mama always taught you, fully live for today.
  • Let go of the need to feel responsible for… whatever. Admins are the worst. They are nurturers and perfectionists by nature. Understand that you can't fix everything by the end of the day. Your life is not a TV show where the perp confesses and all the problems are solved in the last few minutes. Life has carry-overs.
  • As I always say, "You can have time. You can have money. But you can't have both at the same time." You are never going to "have it all" - all at once. Perks and disasters tend to dribble through life. We live on a roller coaster and should expect peaks and valleys during the ride.
  • Learn to tame your mind. Find what it takes for you personally to shut off the tapes that keep playing in your head. For some it's exercise, others use meditation, many turn to friends and fun activities. Find your "off" button and give yourself some respite from worry and tension.
  • Don't over think things. Some things just are…messy, unfair, weird, mean, or a crap shoot. There may be no logical reason for what transpires, so don't beat yourself up trying to find one. The truth – we each have a different viewpoint, so there are usually many factors interplaying. Life can be whimsical.
  • Have faith in yourself. Know what you're good at and fill the gaps. Create good networks. Seek more information. And so on.  Life's a progression. It will go on beyond upheavals and for the most part, you can attitude yourself into a better position by reframing and regrouping. Be confident that you can deal the hand you've been dealt. It may not be the one you wanted or expected, but you are a player and can shift to accommodate change.

Don't let anyone fool you. We are living in tough times – unlike anything we're experienced before. It calls for a new way of thinking and responding. But, by making shifts in the way we view the changes, being proactive when we can, stockpiling for the lean times, and having confidence in ourselves, we can make it work for us and come out with a better life at the end of the day.