Stress at work and in life is not uncommon, especially when things are challenging or something bad happens. When I think about stress, I think about healthy stress versus unhealthy stress. Healthy stress motivates us to complete a task. Unhealthy stress takes a toll on our mental and physical health. How do we find the balance before we tip into unhealthy stress?
An idea struck me this week while listening to a podcast. One of the co-hosts were discussing something bad that had happened and she said, “You know, I’m just not taking it on.” She was talking about the emotional baggage that comes with negative experiences. She elaborated that while she was taking steps to deal with the issue at hand, she made the decision not to slip into the negative thinking that she knew was possible with the situation she was dealt. She had made “I’m not taking that on” as her mantra. The other co-host exclaimed, “I didn’t know you didn’t have to take it on!”
It got me thinking. What do I take on emotionally that I could just not take on? I find that I am the most stressed when I take on the stress of the people I am helping or the issue I am trying to solve. Often, it makes me less productive because I spend time worrying when I could be strategizing or acting. I am able to strategize more effectively when I am clear-minded and objective. Taking on others’ stress is an easy trap to fall into when helping family, friends or clients with an issue, especially if you are naturally an empathetic person. The idea that we have the option to decide what we take on emotionally felt freeing and almost necessary to me. In fact, it is important to lighten your own load so that you can best help those around you. As they say when you are on an airplane – put on your oxygen mask before you help others. If you are in a good head space, you are able to better help those important to you when they need it most.
The same way that you prioritize your tasks, prioritize your worries. Some things in life require our worries but what can you do to lighten your emotional load a bit? Take time to strategize your emotional health. Check in and ask yourself what’s causing you emotional discomfort. That pit at the bottom of your stomach? It usually has a message. When you recognize what it is, evaluate how necessary that worry is. Ask yourself if it is your worry or someone else’s. Ask yourself what requires your attention and if the worry is required to complete the task. Then take a deep breath, because you’ve got this!