How to Manage Stress, Part 1

In our last blog series, we addressed the first letter of the SEMM Model when we talked about ‘How to Get Better Sleep.’ If you missed that series, I encourage you to check it out by starting with the first one: Part 1

The final letter in the SEMM Model, ‘M’, stands for ‘Manage.’ More specifically, we are referring to the management of stress. We deliberately chose that word because the obvious alternative that many posed, eliminate, is nothing more than a pipe dream. The goal is not to eliminate stress, but to manage it. While a case can certainly be made for eliminating some stress, you can’t remove all of it. Stress is just life being lived.

In this blog series, we’re going to lay out the steps you can take to effectively coach yourself on this pillar.

One of the simplest definitions I’ve found of stress is:

“any type of change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. It is your body’s response to anything that requires attention or action.”

Exercise = stress. Food = stress. Work, kids, traffic, bad taste in music = stress!

We all experience stress and each of our bodies see our personal stressors the same way. Said differently: stress is stress is stress. The differentiator for overall health and well-being is how you respond, so let’s dive into that.

Start with Value and Priorities –

When it comes to knowing how to respond to stressors, we need to take ourselves way back to square one by establishing our values and priorities (V/P). This step is foundational and must not be skipped. You will use this information to inform your and explain your decisions to yourself through your own unique V/P lens.

Why start with value and priorities? Quite frankly, they offer a strong anchor that you can tie actions around to eventually create habits that turn into sustainable behaviors. When we guide ourselves to explore what we each really want and what really matters, it takes time so patience is a must. Below you’ll see a series of questions meant to put yourself in the right frame of mind to tease out the truth:

  1. What do you hold up as the highest values and priorities in your life?
  2. What are your stress levels? What brings the most stress? How do you manage it?
  3. What do you love talking about to others?
  4. Where do you spend most of your time?
  5. Where do you spend most of your energy?
  6. What brings you the most joy?
  7. Do you feel equipped with the resources and support you need to achieve your goals?
  8. What habits do you think are vital to moving you towards your goals?
  9. What are you doing to make progress toward your goals today?
  10. What does success look like to you?
  11. If you achieve your goal, but your priorities fall to the wayside, is that still seen as a success?
  12. In what areas, actions, and activities within your life do you have the most consistency, rhythm, and routine? This can be as simple as a morning routine, routes you take as you drive, or paths you walk in your neighborhood.
  13. If you meet your goal in 3 months, what happens next?
  14. What is the last goal you achieved that you are most proud of? Why? How long did it take?

It’s important to note that although you’ll use your answers to inform your actions, you don’t use it in such a way that is akin to “holding it over your head” to make yourself feel guilty for taking an action not in line with your V/P. For instance, if you listed ‘Be a healthy role model for my daughter’ as a priority and then you noticed that you had pizza and beer the last five nights, you wouldn’t say “what happened to being a role model?” I know that seems like an extreme example, but the sentiment rings true. You use information to guide your decisions and conversations in a way that can move you forward.

One final thing to keep in mind –

More often that not, I’ve found that values and priorities might not necessarily be the same. Values can best be described as ‘basic and fundamental beliefs that guide or motivate attitudes or actions.’ Priorities can best be described as ‘where our time is spent.’ In other words, values are our own subjective view on what matters to us while priorities are the objective measure of where time is invested. This is a potentially uncomfortable exercise to go through. For instance, imagine that you list ‘family’ as value number one. While you may also think that ‘family’ is also priority number one, upon actual investigation you may discover that after a 10-hour work day, dinner out with friends, and a ninety-minute commute, family is actually not that high on the priority list. Again, there is no judgement, you are just painting as clear a picture of yourself as possible.

Armed with this information, the following post will cover your next steps to helping you understand your source of stress by unpacking decisions made that are in misalignment with their V/P. In the meantime, why don’t you take the time to answer the above questions? Send your replies to me:

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