Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pulling Back from the Edge

Have you found yourself recently feeling so stressed and anxious, that when you stop and look at it honestly, you would say you are near or at the edge? The bad news is that more and more people are answering “yes” to that question and to make matters worse, it looks as though circumstances may not improve any time in the near future. Many people are seeing their bank accounts and retirement funds shrink, watching as their current and future career/job prospects continue to remain bleak, and all the while their general sense of confidence and optimism continues to decline. As bad as this looks and feels, it is important to remember that you are not along and more importantly, there are things you can do to pull back from the edge.

First of all, whatever your current situation and stress levels are, you must accept and own the situation. You need to, as they say, get real and deal with where you are. Secondly, you need to resolve to move forward in a smart and disciplined way. This means you must develop a compelling goal, or clear line of site. Even if you don’t know any or all of the steps needed to achieve the goal, you can begin moving forward by taking one step at a time. The movement not only leads to learning that which will help you to know subsequent steps, but as you move toward your goal, your stress level will lighten and allow you to pull back from the edge.

As these action steps are underway, it is advisable to build daily stress management practices into your routine. This should include: Regular and vigorous physical activity; daily time for quiet, reflection, meditation, or prayer; fun and pleasant activities; time with friends and family, where you converse about things for which you are grateful and appreciative. Whatever stress management activities you take on, the more you integrate them into how you live and work each day, the more likely you’ll be able to keep yourself from getting too close to the edge.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, is to examine your attitude about your life and work. There is ample data to show that optimists handle stress and anxiety better than pessimists. By keeping a positive outlook and recognizing that you will survive the current, dire circumstances, you might actually come through this period wiser for having gone through it. Though these are painful times for many of us, this is also a great opportunity to build your resilience, while at the same time strengthening your capacity to work at or near an edge without succumbing to being overwhelmed.

Best wishes.

Mark Guterman