Stress may be a major part of your career, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to feel overwhelmed by it. Through regular use of a few simple strategies, you can take control, feel calm, and be more focused and productive.
The Relationship Between Your Thoughts and Your Stress Level
To effectively manage and prevent stress, it’s important to understand what’s causing it. If you’re like most people, you probably believe stress comes primarily from external sources such as unreasonable deadlines and clients.
But that’s not entirely true.
The truth is that your thoughts create the bulk of your stress. How you think generates emotions, which will then cause you to react. And there’s a ripple effect from that. The question is whether it’s a positive or negative one.
Consider how you think and behave when working under a tight deadline.
- Do you stay calm while reminding yourself that this is a learning opportunity (and temporary) or … do you snap at your team while complaining about how hard you have it?
- When your paralegal makes a mistake, do you calmly explain how to fix it (and allow them to do so) or … do you do the work yourself while launching into a tirade about how you have to fix everything?
Unfortunately, you’re prewired to think negatively. And that can wreak havoc when you’re subjected to stressful events and circumstances. But the good news is that you can change how you think.
Three Effective Strategies to Help You Reduce (Even Prevent) Stress
Your brain can be trained to think more positively and be more resilient to stress, allowing you to think calmly and clearly while maintaining emotional control (no matter how messy things get).
Here are three simple strategies to help you do that.
Strategy No. 1: Reframe
It’s possible to positively reframe just about any situation. (As a cancer survivor who was originally told the odds were against me, I know what I’m talking about.)
This isn’t about finding false positives or ignoring the negatives, but is instead about identifying and then intentionally choosing to focus on:
- What you’re learning,
- How you can leverage the experience to your benefit, and/or
- The positive end results.
The next time you’re under a tight deadline, will you complain about how unfair it is (to anyone who will listen) or will you focus on the skills you’re developing while reminding yourself that the end is in sight?
Strategy No. 2: Take Mindful Breaks (Often)
If you’re like most lawyers, you’re busy and glued to your chair. You need breaks to help you stay focused and calm.
Mindfulness helps calm an overactive mind and trains your brain to be more present. And movement will help you to reset. (Plus, exercise can be thought of as a form of movement meditation.) Why not combine both when taking breaks?
Here’s what to do:
- Set a timer for five minutes. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and breathe in and out through your nose slowly. Focus your mind on your breathing. When your mind wanders, bring it back.
- Next, get up and move for five minutes. Walk through the office, go up and down the stairs or do a few squats. All that matters is that you get up from your chair and move.
Strategy No. 3: Practice Gratitude
A regular gratitude practice forces you to look for things to be grateful for. This will raise your awareness around life’s simple pleasures (that you currently take for granted or pay no attention to). It will change how you think.
For this to work properly, follow these guidelines:
- Practice regularly. (I recommend a minimum of five times per week.)
- Create a routine by practicing it on the same days of the week at the same time each day.
- Find at least three specific things to be grateful for in that moment or day. It’s not enough to be grateful for your family. Instead, be grateful for the belly laugh of your son that morning, which made you smile.
Using these three strategies regularly will help change your thinking. You’ll be more positive, more in control of yourself, and more stress-resilient.
You Might Also Like:
- “Survival Skill No. 2 for New Associates: Dealing With Chronic Stress” by Link Christin
- “Five Ways to Create a Less-Stressed Workplace” by Jamie Spannhake
New in the Bookstore:
In her new book “The Lawyer, the Lion, and the Laundry: Three Hours to Finding Your Calm in the Chaos,” lawyer and certified health coach Jamie Spannhake shares a better way to enjoy the life you truly want. Join her for a fun and enlightening journey to learn how to CHOOSE, ACT and THINK in ways that will clarify your desires so you can reclaim your time and enjoy your life.
Now available in the Attorney at Work bookstore, here. (Order by November 1 to get the book at a special launch price.)