3 steps when stress affects your health

When we are stressed it can show up in our bodies if we don’t slow down and release what we can’t control. Stress is an illusion as are all thoughts. It’s tied to expectations we affix to ourselves based on our interpretation of what should be happening.

The “should be happening” is the tripwire.

To counter stress, we neglect our personal needs because we think doing more is what gets things done. The problem with this thinking is that turning away from the feeling behind the stress only adds to it and creates a cycle of perfectionism, which exhausts and defeats us because the standard we set for ourselves is not attainable.

I write, speak and coach about executive presence yet this week I could see myself not exhibiting it. Instead of getting curious about what was going on with me, I soldiered on and kept working harder, eating whatever was handy instead of breaking for healthier choices, and reflection.

I thought, “If I just catch up, everything will be fine,” denying the signals my body was giving me and that I was observing in my own behavior. I had convinced myself that if I just got it all done there’d be less stress. Then I got sick and still didn’t take the cue to get curious about the fear behind what was troubling me.

You will never “get it all done.” There will always be more to do. Pacing yourself with healthy practices is vital.

When I give myself space to take a deep breath and ask what fear is behind my stress and drill down past all the surface issues of “won’t succeed,” “will feel judged,” “will be perceived as a failure,” and get to the even more ridiculous illusions of “will lose my job,” “will lose respect of people I care about,” “my health will totally fail me,” I get down to the root of what people fear more than anything in the world but spend their whole lives busying themselves in an effort to run away from – “I’m afraid I’m not good enough and will end up alone.”

That’s a really uncomfortable feeling. It’s dreadful. No doubt. Admitting it is hard, but to do so disarms its power. It takes practice to name and sit with the feelings we turn away from, yet it is the very thing that frees us from them. And the more I sit with that discomfort and not turn away from it because I’m afraid the more I can accept the feeling andchallenge it. “I’m afraid of being judged as ineffective but I know I’m capable. I’ve been effective in the past. What has helped me destress, be healthy and effective in the past? Hmm – being as gentle with myself as I would with a child or puppy.

1. What can I release here?

My need to: be perceived as effective; personalize setbacks; gain false pride for getting it all done myself; to set the bar at perfection.

2. What do I deserve?

To be loved and appreciated for who I am not what I do, to eat healthily, and to enjoy good relationships and fulfilling life.

3. What am I ready to accept?

A peaceful mindset, knowing I’m uniquely suited for my work and pretty capable even with my imperfections, space for myself to realize whether there is a lot or a little to do I can only do one thing at a time, vibrant health, all the love in the world, that delegating is smart, and that I’m enough just as I am.”

Today do something for yourself. Read. Do a craft or home project. Visit a place that brings you peace. Call a friend or family member you miss. Take a long walk without headphones. This creates space for transformational reflection. Listen to the silence.

If you want more executive presence and career planning tips here’s a link to Mary Lee’s FREE Career and Life Planning Tool.

Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is an executive coach and corporate CEO who helps busy leaders get off the treadmill to nowhere to be more effective, earn more, be calmer and enjoy connected relationships with the people who matter while it still matters. Watch her FREE Master Class training on Three Things to Transform Your Life and Career Right Now at www.MaryLeeGannon.com.