7 Steps to Choosing Less Stress
The webinar, which I hosted on behalf of Psych Central, was called 7 Steps to the Stress-Less Brain: The Now Effect. Things were going along swimmingly until about 18 minutes into the session.
The Universe as the ultimate teacher
Dr. Goldstein began to explain that not all stress is bad.
“Stress can be a good thing,” he said; “It can give us energy and motivation to do work but then it reaches a point, a pinnacle where, as it continues, our productivity …”
That’s when the line went dead.
I summarized what Dr. Goldstein had just said in the hopes that he would be back online by the time I was finished. No such luck.
I could feel my “good stress” rapidly descending into panic. I pushed back my chair, paused, and took a moment to decide what to do.
ADHD feeling of being overwhelmed kicks in
On the webinar video, we see a cursor wildly flying around on-screen. That’s me in the throes of being overwhelmed, trying to troubleshoot the audio. What I didn’t realize was that I had absolutely no control over the situation. The power had gone down at Dr. Goldstein’s end.
Step 1: understand stress
Before the dead air, Goldstein explained that Step 1 was to recognize stress when it happened.
As I listened to the hiss at his end of the audio feed, I was pretty sure I’d achieved a firm grasp of Step 1.
Step 2: choice points
Finally, Dr. Goldstein was back to explain Step 2. As I understand it, a choice point is that moment between feeling the stress and reacting.
“As soon as we become aware of the stress reaction happening, we’re in a space of awareness,” said Goldstein. “We can’t see something unless we have a little space from it.”
As he said this, it struck me that my initial response to dead air was to push my chair back from my desk to get a different view on the situation. Cool.
At this point I’m thinking, I couldn’t have planned this if I’d tried.
I’ve experienced technical glitches during other people’s webinars; I knew it was not unheard of, and not the end of the world. Still, I was more frazzled than I consciously realized, as witnessed by further technical foul-ups caused by yours truly.
Cosmic joke or cosmic gift – either way, I was given the perfect opportunity to experience first-hand the webinar’s message.
Dr. Goldstein reminded us of how, when stressed, we can be bombarded by a tremendous amount of self-hate, negative self-talk, self-blame and catastrophizing. We exaggerate the negative and discount the positive.
Does that sound familiar to you? He might as well have been describing my pre-ADHD diagnosis life.
Step 3: cultivate compassion towards yourself
While we need stress to grow, said Goldstein, we also need to develop compassion for ourselves.
Am I going to beat myself up? Or am I going to use this stress as motivation?
So here’s the thing: am I going to beat myself up? Or am I going to use this stress as the motivating stress that Dr. Goldstein mentioned at the top?
Step 4: know your bad habits
This one (as I understand it) is about recognizing the stuff we’re doing that’s adding to and reinforcing negative stress.
For me, that means getting out of the pattern of labeling myself as a failure when things go amiss.
Instead, I need to see mistakes as necessary to growth, and nothing to be ashamed of. (I’m going to keep telling myself that.)
Step 5: get connected with supportive people
After the webinar, I called a good friend to debrief, de-stress, and have a laugh. Our talk kept me from catastrophizing, and reinforced my resolve to move forward and not give up.
Step 6: make your action plan
Goldstein suggests that we make a list of things we do in the day and ask ourselves which are nurturing, and which ones deplete us, adding to our negative stress?
Lists. Great. I have ADHD: I’m good at lists!
Step 7: make a maintenance plan
The key, says Goldstein, is to “forgive and invite.”
“When time’s gone by, and you haven’t been engaging in the things that are good for your stress, forgive yourself as best as you can for that time gone by.
“Look at what got in your way, what were the obstacles, and recognize in that moment that you’re present and in a choice point.
From that choice point you can just get back on the train, working the program to stress less.”
With thanks to Dr. Goldstein for an amazing opportunity to learn through doing, even though that’s not quite what we’d had in mind!
Kessler, Z. (2013). 7 Steps to Choosing Less Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 26, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/adhd-zoe/2012/07/7-steps-to-choosing-less-stress/