Contrary to popular opinion stress is not something that you have to learn to live with. Managing stress implies that having stress in your life is inevitable but that’s not the case. You can lead a stress-free live. But to do so, there are three habits and notions that you will have to change.
1. Learn to accept imperfections and ambiguities
To lead a stress-free live you have to rid yourself of the notions of perfection information and perfect performance. Seldom will have you have all the information needed to making a fully informed decision. Accept that fact and move on. Make the best decision that you can based on the information that you have and be comfortable with the fact that you may have to change direction mid-course as new information comes in.
Also accept the fact that no one will ever do a task exactly the way that you would. So stop trying to create replicas of yourself and focus on the objectives. There’s a reason that there is only one of you. So, if the objectives are met, accept it and move on.
2. Identify your non-negotiables and live accordingly
People will respect the limits that you set on your time if you respect those limits. If everything is considered negotiable, it will be negotiated (and sometimes coopted). What is non-negotiable to you? Is it coaching your son’s team, taking a spinning class, or being a part of a book club? Whatever it is, book it on your calendar like you would any key commitment. Don’t schedule over it and don’t cancel out last minute. Honor it like you would if it was a key client; because it is. Don’t apologize for not being available at a certain time. You wouldn’t apologize for having a client meeting scheduled at a time that someone wanted to talk to you; so why apologize for having a commitment for your most important client?
3. Drop the notion of work/life balance
The concept of work-life balance is loaded with guilt. Work-life balance is not something achieved over a day or a week but over time. Some periods of your life will be more heavily weighted to one bucket or another based on your stage of life and the corresponding defined priorities. As long as your time allocation aligns with your non-negotiables ignore what others may say, ignore the advice of experts, accept the decisions that you’ve made and move in.
If ignoring the results of studies worries you, just consider how often expert opinion changes based on new studies or new research. You spend 5 years following their advice, are miserable in the process, and then it changes and you repeat the process. Remember that every expert opinion is based on averages. I’m not an average person, are you?
When it comes to stress, we are our own worst enemy. The only appropriate stress response is when it’s a life/death situation. That’s what stress was designed for and that’s the arena to which it should be relegated. But that can only happen if you decide that it will.