You wake up with the good intention of maintaining your inner calm all day long. But before you know where you are, what’s happening around you sends you up the wall and across the ceiling. In no time at all, you feel more like a tightly coiled spring that’s about to unravel at high speed.
You know how it is.
You leave in good time for your meeting in town, but hit a traffic jam. As you start making your way round the back streets, you find the whole area is grid-locked. There’s been an accident. You call your boss to explain you’ll be late, even though you left an hour earlier than usual, but he’s not interested .
Angry and Upset
All hot and bothered, you eventually join the meeting, only to find your colleagues have committed you to another deadline. Someone says: there’s no option, it’s just got to be done. Another infers: you don’t want to let the team down do you? (Emotional blackmail). You point out that what’s needed can’t be done in the time available, and you explain why, but nobody will listen. Then the meeting finishes with the expectation that you’ll do what’s been asked.
Exasperated, you walk back to your office, sit down and open up your Inbox to find 46 new emails. Angry and upset doesn’t begin to describe how you’re feeling and it’s only 10 o’clock in the morning.
Take a Few Deep Breaths to Restore Your Inner Calm
In the heat of the moment, when you’re feeling stressed out, one of the best ways to restore your inner calm is to take a few long….slow….deep breaths. And as you do, consciously focus on your breathing. This simple technique induces a relaxed feeling that lowers your heart rate, reduces muscle tension and relieves anxiety. It may not solve your actual problems, but it will reduce your stress level. And then you’re more able to tackle the difficulties you’re facing.
Be Clear About What You Can Control
Another key aspect of handling stress is being absolutely clear about what you can – and cannot – control. Unexpected traffic jams and the unreasonable expectations of other people are actually things beyond your control. You can’t do anything about the thousands of cars on the road in the early morning. And you can’t change other people’s behavior and expectations, only they can do that. But what you can control is how you respond to these situations. Getting uptight only ratchets up your stress level.
Just think about it.
You left an hour earlier than usual. There was no way you could have known there’d be an accident that caused a major hold-up. You phoned your boss to let him know the situation, which is all you could do in the circumstances.
So, next time, instead of getting agitated, put on some calming music. Whatever your preferred genre, select a piece of music with a slow tempo. This has the effect of slowing your heart rate and relaxing your muscles, which encourages a sense of inner calm. Then as your mind and body relax, you’ll find it easier to cope with what’s going on around you.
Be Quietly Assertive
Without doubt, one of the greatest causes of stress in everyday life is the unreasonable behavior and expectations of other people. So, when faced with thoughtless demands, don’t be tempted blame, criticize or rant and rave, no matter how justified you think this is. And don’t be tempted to retreat to a safe place and let your perceived injustices fester. Instead, start to nurture a quietly confident, assertive way of responding.
There are two techniques that are particularly helpful when dealing with people in positions of authority, who are making unreasonable demands. In both cases, remember to start by taking a few deep breaths.
If you’re asked to add something to your ‘to do’ list and complete it an unrealistic time frame, respond by saying: what would you like me not to do in order to complete this new task on time? This throws the onus back on to your boss and obliges him – or her – to prioritize how you should allocate your time.
Next, if your boss won’t take no for an answer, just keep calmly and confidently re-iterating what you have already said. For example: I can’t take on any extra work right now because my diary is chock-a-block this week. Then if the request is repeated, say: But the point is I can’t it take on, because I haven’t got the time to complete what’s needed. If your boss keeps insisting, respond with: As I was saying, I simply can’t take it on… or… I guess I’m not making myself clear, I can’t it take on… By standing your ground in a calm, non-aggressive way, you make it clear that you really can’t take on any extra work, and the onus is back on your boss to prioritize how your limited time should be spent.
Restore Your Inner Calm
Don’t under-estimate the power of slowing down your breathing and the positive effect it has on how you feel and your ability to deal with the difficult situation you’re facing. When you’re grounded inside, you’re more able to respond in a confident and assertive way.