LEAD just hosted its eighth Coffee and Connect, which discussed how to manage stress in the face of difficult transitions. Here are some of the takeaways from the event:
Speakers: Sara Kyles and Jaquala Lowrey
All of us face stressful transitions at different points of our lives. Relocating, new jobs, starting the school year, the death of a loved one, getting married or divorced, sending kids to college, and welcoming a new baby are just some examples of common transitions which can be stress inducing.
How can we push through these transitions and become more resilient?
- Recognize the “cognitive model” and try to interrupt, change or manage one of the steps:
Situation — Thoughts – Emotions – Behavior
A situation happens. You have resulting thoughts (often negative and incorrect). Emotions surface (often fear, anxiety, etc). Behaviors take over (like freezing, fleeing or panicking).
If we can interrupt, change or manage a step, our stress will go down. For example, test the accuracy of your THOUGHTS. Are they true and realistic? Or, when emotions flare up, use coping skills to manage them better such as deep breathing. Finally, try to choose a more productive behavior like asking for help or exercising when possible.
- When in the midst of a stressful transition or situation, call to mind your strengths and positive prior achievements which you can then use to push through the challenging time at hand.
- Develop a ‘toolbox’ of coping skills that works for you. Implement those coping skills frequently during times of difficult transitions. One ‘tool’ that has been proven effective for many (even in the heat of a very stressful moment) is mindfulness. Much information on how to practice mindfulness can be found online.
- COUNTER stress-inducing/irrational thoughts with more PRODUCTIVE alternate thoughts. For example: “I’m going to freeze and fail during my presentation” can be countered with the more productive statement, “I am prepared. I will do fine. Even if I make mistakes it will be difficult for the audience to notice.”
- Challenge your perceptions of a situation. Often times our perceptions are incorrect, inaccurate, biased, not realistic, etc.
The goal is to provide yourself with some measure of relief from anxiety/stress, NOT to alleviate it altogether. Some stress can be beneficial, and sends us important signals at times.
Remember, stress will always be part of our lives—especially during difficult transitions—so work to manage stress and anxiety and you will become more resilient and ready to face the next challenge!