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Mark Richardson, CR, is an author, columnist, and business growth strategist. He authored the best-selling book, How Fit Is Your Business? as well as his latest book, Fit to Grow. He can be reached at mrichardson@mgrichardson.com or 301.275.0208.

How to Stress Less

Use this simple exercise to problem-solve and break down stress 

August 14, 2017

I often ask audiences: “Are you feeling stressed? Is your day controlling you?” Generally, I get many raised hands in response. 

Everything today moves at greater speed. Each of us is required to have more knowledge and to juggle more balls. All of this leads to higher levels of stress. 

One option is to crawl into a cave and hope the problems just go away. Or you can be proactive.

As a visual thinker, I’m always looking for ways to make a problem more tangible so I can better understand it. A couple of years ago, I was sitting outside on a spring day thinking about how great the sun made me feel. Then, a large cloud appeared and my mood began to change. Soon, another cloud made the sunlight almost nonexistent and I felt even worse.

Later, it occurred to me that the experience was analogous to the day-to-day stresses we all experience. Then I thought that if I could visualize the stresses as clouds, I may be able to find a way to vaporize them so the sun could shine more intensely.

This resulted in the following exercise that you can do for yourself. You’ll find it provides a new perspective and a way to gain more control over your own stress.

stress remodelingStress Clouds 

Step 1: Draw you.

Step 2: Draw clouds to represent the stress you are feeling. The bigger the cloud, the greater the stressor. Use just a word or two to describe each one. Some of these clouds may be projects and some may be personal situations. Just ask yourself, What is causing me stress? 

Step 3: Write down one to three action steps that will help you vaporize, or at least shrink,
each stress cloud.

Step 4: Incorporate the action steps into your calendar as
“to do” items.

Step 5: Monitor the actions over the course of a few days and see how the stress clouds shrink. 

Other Insights

As you’re eliminating current clouds, new clouds will come in, so you’ll need to create a new drawing on a weekly basis. Remember that every day is different, so it’s important to draw the sketch from scratch rather than making a template.

There are many little techniques like this that you can develop or master. The most important theme, however, is you need to believe that how you feel is primarily up to you, not others or the environment.

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