Episode 204: December 26, 2011
by Stever Robbins
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The end of the year can be a stressful time. We're expected to spend lots of time with relatives. We haven't trained them well, so they happily share their lives with us. "You'll love sharing a room with little Timmy! He can perform the entire Star Wars trilogy. In song!" Er, yeah. I'm already saving up to send Timmy to theater camp. Far, far away.
My friend Europa is frantic around New Years. Not only does she have family concerns to deal with, but her business empire spans the globe. She has all kinds of end-of-year preparations to make. She has money to shift into off-shore accounts, balance sheets to adjust, and plans for next year. She was so stressed that she actually showed up to the office with wrinkles in her power suit and a cracked heel in her new pair of Jimmy Choo's.
Bernice, on the other hand, is pretty much unflappable. She's got a rock solid presence, which makes her formidable, and a source of strength. Europa vanished into Bernice's office and came out a few minutes later, calm, put-together, and cool as a cucumber.
Here are the 5 stress-relief tips Bernice had for Europa:
Tip #1: Where Is Your Stress?
Stress happens in your body. Bernice meditates daily, so she has a keen self-awareness. Next time you are stressed, pay attention to your body. Where do you feel your stress? For me, it's a tingling down my midline, and a tightness in my chest. My breath becomes shallow and fast, and I clench my jaw. All it would take is a couple of bolts and I'd look like Frankenstein's monster. Before you can do anything about your stress, you have to find out where it is located.
Tip #2: Center Yourself
When you notice you're in a state of stress, change your body. Bernice consulted Dr. Stuart Heller of CultivatingExcellence.com. Stuart is a martial artist who developed a way to reorient your entire body to being centered and calm. He says the secret to life isn't about staying centered, it's about regaining your center as quickly as possible when you lose it.
His technique is simple: Notice the feelings in your body. You can do it right now, while you listen or read. First, find your feet and legs. Not the detachable ones; the ones that are still part of your body. Notice how they feel, and where they are in space.
Second, find your arms and hands. Again, just notice the feelings and where they are in space. Third, find your spine, neck, and head. Now take a deep breath and let the feeling expand from your chest to your legs, feet, arms, hands, spine, and head.
You should now feel quieter, calmer, more centered. It's that easy. If for some reason the technique didn't work for you, take a deep breath and try again. If it still doesn't work, maybe the stress gives you a deep, hidden psychological benefit. And now you can get even more of the benefit by stressing about the technique not working.
Tip #3: De-Stress Your Year-End Stressors
We each have our own things that stress us out this time of year. Make a list: Timmy's one-man Star Wars trilogy (performed for the 19th time). Wrapping presents. Meeting your year-end sales goals. Planning your holiday. And so on.
Now you’re going to train your body to stay centered when you think of those things. You’ll start to build an association between those old stressors and the new feeling of being centered and solid. Think of each item on your list, one at a time. As soon as you notice the feelings of stress begin, break the physical habit. Take a deep breath, find your feet, find your hands, find your head, and breathe again. Repeat until you're thinking about the formerly-stressful topic, from a place of being centered and calm.
Center yourself while thinking about upcoming stresses.
Tip #4: Start Your Day Centered
If you want to take this to the next level, glue a poster that says "Feet, Arms, Head" to your bedroom ceiling. When you wake up, immediately practice centering yourself so you start the day in a good place. Spend a moment and review anything in the upcoming day you think might become stressful. Center yourself before thinking about those things, and keep returning to center while thinking about them. You might end up so centered that you can't find anything that stresses you out. If that's the case, think about the fact that gluing that poster to your ceiling just reduced your property value by $10,000. Breathe deeply, find your feet, your hands, and your head.
Tip #5: Reinforce Centering Before Tackling Unpleasant Tasks
Even though you rehearsed centering in the morning, right before each stressful task, stop and center yourself again. For example, a good time to take a moment to breathe is right before opening that official-looking envelope from the tax authority that says "FINAL NOTICE" in big, red, blood-colored letters.
Bernice notices her feet, hands, and head. Given her confident, unflappable presence, it's hard not to notice. And that's exactly where her presence comes from: she centers herself daily, and since it only takes a moment, she's trained herself to use Dr. Heller's technique before anything she anticipates will be stressful.
As she helpfully explained all this, I looked her straight in the eye and said, "How's the wedding coming?" She looked back and said, "It's going very well, thank you." "Yeah? Have you told Melvin, yet, that the two of you are getting married?" Much to her credit, after the initial flinch, she took less than 5 seconds to regain her composure.
Have a happy and stress-free new year. Now breathe.
I mentor successful people in building exceptional lives and careers. I provide a smart, business-savvy sounding board for to business owners for confidential brainstorming and strategy discussions. If you want to know more, visit http://www.SteverRobbins.com.
Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!