How To Manage Your Stress

by on January 11th, 2013

Just about most people I know get stressed out. MBA and law school classmates. Friends, family and colleagues. And other people all over the world. Most of them stress out a lot actually.

We get stressed about money, doing well at work, getting into top schools, passing exams, rushing to the airport, and about our relationships–friendship romantic.

So as we go through our week, our stress rises when we have to spend money, lead the next work meeting, or interact with someone whose opinion we care about. We spend a lot of extra time thinking about how to do it perfectly and if we can’t then how we can avoid it. And even though we all do it, we almost never talk about it because we think we’re the only ones going through it.

On the other hand, just about everything I stressed about wasn’t worth the time and energy I spent stressing. The high stakes moment I awaited was a lot easier to navigate than expected. The negotiation I poured over for weeks was a lot nicer than I thought it would be. The test I took was wasn’t nearly as hard (or least not as important) as we all thought.  And the person I was nervous to talk to didn’t turn out to be scary at all. In fact, more often than not, the discussions went well.

In short, stress usually things worse, not better. You artificially raise the stakes. Increase the odds that you perform worse when the situation comes. And you don’t enjoy the ride, which often times is just as important as the result.

Easier said than done, I agree. After all, I stress about interviews, tests, and conversations as much as anyone else.  Further, when you have Wildly Important Goals, sometimes a little bit of stress is inevitable. Because you’ve been working at your WIG for months, if not more, and the stakes feel higher than they have for a while.

One the other hand, the better you manage your stress and enjoy the process … the better off you will be. The better you’ll manage the process. And the better your odds for success will be in the end.

So what about that interview, meeting, project or discussion coming up? Have you been worrying about it all week? Is it stressful to talk about? Think about? Prepare for? If so, take a step back. Breath. Tell someone. It’s probably going to work out better  than you think.

Something to consider. One of my favorite quotes in the world:

Fear makes the wolf bigger than it is.

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