Stress Reduction Fail


Have you ever had a bright idea that you thought would change everything for you? Maybe you even got off to a good start and saw some initial results. However, in the end, it was not sustainable or rather, you were not able to keep it up and it ended up on the trash heap of bright ideas that didn’t stick.

A little while ago I had such a bright idea for managing my stress levels. I think it’s important to write about our successes as well as our failures so wanted to share this with you. I had noticed that on days when I was stressed out, I could seemingly go hours without taking a deep breath or appreciating the good things I had in life. So I tried setting calendar reminders every 2 hours to prompt me to walk around for a few minutes or if that was not practical, at a bare minimum to take some deep breaths.

This lasted a little less than a week before I scrapped the idea. So what happened and why do I think this failed?

  1. It felt like another commitment. Sure, it was a good commitment to myself, but it felt like it added to my burden instead of relieving it.

  2. It felt like another task. There was no joy or sense of reward in it, before during or after.

  3. It felt clumsy. It just didn’t work well with the flow of my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there may be something in here that works, but this particular incarnation didn’t.

If you have a process or technique that seems to work for you, I would love to hear about it. Just let me know in the comments.

Making the Most of a New Job

Change is stressful. And major changes, even good ones, come with increased stress. For instance, both divorce AND marriage are both on most lists of life's most stressful events, along with birth and death, and getting hired or fired. We are creatures of habit so predictability reduces our overall level of anxiety.

On the flipside, change and stress are a necessary ingredient for us to grow and develop. But there is a catch. The stress we experience over the course of the day is additive, which is why you might start the day relaxed and be redlining by the time you leave work. And too much stress makes it harder for us to make the most of our opportunities.

I recently started a new job, which was good news for me and my family. However, this change came with stress. A new commute, new office layout, new office politics - to name a few. So in order to limit some of the collateral stressors I experience in my day, I've implemented 3 EZPZ habits. The great thing about habits is once they are established, they require very little willpower and fold into your day seamlessly.

1. Robot Parking

I'm not sure when I realized my behavior was ludicrous, but in the past I would zig-zag my car from the row closest to the entrance to the last row until I found the closest parking spot. Let's do the math. So I was spending at least a few more minutes, burning extra gas, and adding stress to my first activity at work for the "benefit" of being maybe 20 steps closer to the entrance. And to be embarrassingly honest, thankfully there is no physical or medical reason I would need to be closer and my dad-bod could actually use the extra steps.

2. Walk-in song

Music has and always will have a huge effect on our mood. And what better way to start off the day than a song to put you in the right mindset to tackle your day? A song like "Center Stage" by Capital Cities makes me feel like I can handle whatever is thrown at me. Well, at least for the first 30 minutes! But sometimes that is enough to make all the difference between a good day and a bad day.

3. Break room as uber-friendly zone

My natural demeanor at the office is friendly, but not overly chatty with coworkers I don't know well. When you are starting a new job, any stranger you meet in the office could be an important ally in the future. It's a bit too much to ask of anyone to be extra friendly all the time, but I think the break room is an important crossroads where you can meet all sorts of interesting colleagues. So I make it a point to override my natural inclination and force myself to be just a little more friendly to everyone when I'm there. In the past this has allowed me to meet mentors and mentees, make friends, and even get invited to a lunch meeting with the CEO!

These are just a few EZPZ examples and I imagine you probably can come up with some great ones, too. I hope these tips will serve you well.