Recently my parents called me and I answered the phone to the scary comment, “there’s been an accident.” They had been in a farm accident!Mom broke her arm, has two bum knees and a busted lip. Dad’s ankle was horribly bruised after a truck loaded with hay ran over it. Thank goodness for the neighbor who called 9-1-1 and got help to them quickly. I share this story about my parents’ accident as an example of how one person who was stressed and didn’t take time to communicate, ended up causing both of them to be injured.
Many of my clients say, “I am so stressed…” Stress comes in lots of forms. Some stress is good and helps us perform better—like meeting a deadline on time. Other types of stress have the opposite effect on us and we perform poorly. When clients bring up stress, questions I typically ask include: What are you doing to reduce the stress? How will you do that? Who will you communicate to? This last question is critical to successfully reducing stress. I’m finding a common pattern among clients when they admit they are stressed. If the client identifies a game plan and communicates the plan with a trusted person, the client typically a) implements the changes to help reduce the stress, and b) has a powerful conversation that helps both people.
When you are stressed, what gets in your way of stopping and communicating to someone you trust? Maybe it’s because you think those closest to you understand what you are thinking and know you better than anyone else. Maybe it’s because you think someone else has it worse than you do, so you aren’t willing to share your concerns about what is stressful. Whatever the reasons, I want to share a few tips to help you when you are stressed.
Stressed? Feel and Stop. If you are feeling stressed, stop and become aware. A good practice is to write or journal what is causing the stress. Where is it coming from? Have you ever experienced this cause of stress before? If so, what makes it different this time? How do you think it can it be reduced? For example, one of my clients was very stressed about her work and the amount of time she was spending at work well into the evenings. After journaling for just one week, she quickly noticed that her stress was actually coming from her children. Because she stopped and journaled, she was able to notice what was causing the stress and increased her one-on-one time with her kids.
Stressed? Share with care. When you do feel stress, it’s a good step to not only stop, but also think about who you might talk to that deeply listens and cares. It amazes me that when I ask clients who they might share their stress with, most of my clients say, “I hadn’t really thought about that.” Together with the client, we put together a plan that helps identify who he/she wants to share with and when; what he/she wants to share; and how he/she might put the plan into action. In fact, I’ve helped my clients practice and dry run these conversations/plans. This practice provides a lot of confidence to the client.
Stressed? Communicate calmly. When stress strikes, some cultures and individuals actually reinforce cocooning and isolation to mask the situation. What I’ve found with clients that “Feel and Stop, Share with care,” and “Communicate calmly,” is that the conversation is not just needed by the client but also by the other person and is helpful to more than both of them, and typically is replicated because it was successful, thoughtful, and rational. One client realized that her stress was impacting the entire family. However by opening communication with her husband, they established a plan and helped one another—and their kids.
Could my parents have avoided their horrific farm accident? Yes. My father was stressed about getting ready for a two-day trip and needed to feed 14 hungry horses on the coldest day of winter. Instead of feeling the stress, stopping, and figuring out a plan to feed the horses before entering their pasture, he proceeded quickly and asked my mother to help him drive a truck and keep the horses from coming through the gate. Because he didn’t share, nor communicate a well understood game plan, a drastic error was made when the horses moved toward the truck. My mother ran over my father’s leg while turning the truck to miss a horse. As she got out of the truck to run to his aid, she fell and broke her arm. As with most clients, the time it would have taken my father to Feel and Stop, Share with Care, and Communicate Calmly would have taken a few minutes. Instead, both of my parents will be recovering from their injuries for weeks.
The next time you are stressed, how will you communicate to help ensure you have positive results instead of stressful consequences?