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How to Manage Stress, Part 4

This is the final post in our series on how to manage stress, a key pillar of the SEMM Model. Although the tools we will cover today look more appetizing and easy to implement than what we previously covered in the first three posts, it would be a bad choice to do so. The simple fact is that without a firm foundation of a your values and priorities (Part 1), followed by a mindset shift (Part 2), and then the gradual implementation of small wins that have positive compounding effects (Part 3), any success gained by jumping ahead will be short-lived. Houses that withstand the harshest weather are built on a solid foundation, not because of fancy light fixtures and appliances.

Now that you have mastered creating and following a daily routine, are practicing gratitude, and have found success in saying ‘no’ to things misaligned with your V/P, it’s time to expand your sphere of influence. One of the best ways to do that? Teach others! Let’s outline two different possibilities that provide the opportunity to do so:

Gift Your Time:

It’s been said that a great way to help yourself is to serve others. I agree, but with a minor caveat: if you neglect yourself too often or for too long, you’ll never be able to serve folks very well or for very long. Having said that, remember that we are looking to teach others by expanding our sphere of influence. Giving your time by serving a cause that resonates with you is a chance to lead by example, to show others how you manage your stress and live your life in alignment with your V/P. Of course, if someone asks you how you’ve made the changes people have noticed on them, you have an even greater chance to teach! But if not, leading purely by example works really well. To my fellow parents, I ask which is more effective: ‘Do as I say’ or ‘Do as I do?’ Here is a short list of places that you can gift your time:

  • Join a volunteer ministry at Church
  • Serve at the local soup kitchen
  • Hand out waters for the next local 5k run
  • Man a booth for your favorite local coffee shop at the next neighborhood market day
  • Go read books at a local retirement home
  • Go read books at a local preschool

Lead a Bright Spots Practice:

This one is more public facing than the former ‘Gift Your Time,’ as here you are not merely an active participant but the catalyst for the start and continuation of a ‘new thing.’ While it can be a bit scary to start publicly encouraging others to share the wins in their own lives, there are a few ways to dampen that fear:

  • Start this practice within the group you’ve been gifting your time
  • Explain why it’s important to practice gratitude. The more you invest time to articulate your thoughts, the clearer it becomes not just to yourself but also to your audience
  • Lead by example. Consistently share your own bright spots.
  • Be vulnerable, but don’t overshare. There is a stark difference and once again I’ll rely on Brene Brown to explain that difference:

Vulnerability is based on mutuality and requires boundaries and trust. It’s not oversharing, it’s not purging, it’s not indiscriminate disclosure, and it’s not celebrity-style social media information dumps.

Brene Brown

As I said earlier, the two options outlined above might seem like easy wins for you to begin managing your stress. I want to caution against it one final time. Do not fall into the trap of using a short-cut to success because it will be short lived. You need to do the harder work of stabilizing your own plane first. Things don’t need to be perfect before you gift your time and lead others; that’s not possible. But if the pilot of an airplane in duress spends his time helping everyone else put on their mask before he puts on his own, who is going to fly the plane when he runs out of oxygen?

Teach yourself how to put your own mask on first and down the road you’ll do the same for others. This is how true impact occurs.

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