We often forget that ‘good’ change – the type we choose for ourselves can add to stress levels just as much as changes perceived as ‘bad’. Moving house, getting married, having children are usually on the good list – activities we have consciously chosen. Yet they carry a loading for stress: difficulty getting a mortgage, the wrong shade of bridesmaids dresses or sleepless nights all take their toll. We have no-one to blame. We chose to have these life events. 5 years ago, I pondered this while living through our office purchase and refit. We really wanted to do this – to have a place that clearly reflected the way we like to work- warm, welcoming, stylish, professional. So when the deliveries started to go wrong, when there were fears that the wallpaper night not go far enough, when all workmen seemed to be leaving for 3 week holidays and the furniture factories shut down, I started to think about how best we can cope with changes in life. Here are my tips for saving your sanity.
1 Hold the Vision.
Remember why you are doing whatever it is you are doing. Keep a strong picture of what life will be like as a result of the change you have chosen.
2 Celebrate the smallest accomplishment.
Don’t wait for everything to be in place. Take delight in every step you are taking towards your desired goal rather than constantly thinking about what hasn’t happened yet.
3 Be a Defensive Pessimist if you must.
Always a supporter of optimism, even I realise that maybe you should start from an understanding of the fact that things will definitely go wrong. The defensive pessimist knows this and puts in plans for tackling every hitch rather than wasting energy railing at mistakes or delays.
4 Accept that time can be an elastic concept.
Especially in the summer when everything seems to go a bit awry. A general truth is that no-one is ever quite on the same timescale that you have in your mind. Don’t just assume that people know that you are in a hurry. Spell out any rigid deadlines but build in some flexibility. Most important for women- learn to deal with being unable to control everything!
5 Find humour wherever you can.
In talking to Customer Services (at a certain large nameless but certainly Scandinavian store) yet again, with a fourth person since the start of the sorry mess, I suddenly realised it felt like being in Ground Hog Day without the benefit of learning to play the piano or reading the romantic poets. What somehow made it funnier was that when I shared this with Ben in Customer Services, he obviously had no idea what I was talking about. Too young? Not a film goer?
6 Coach people whenever you can.
Don’t shout or get stressed. Just go through how you need them to be. Someone, listening at my end, chuckled when they heard me saying, ‘I don’t want to talk about problems. I want you to talk to me about solutions’. . .and guess what? They did
7 Be grateful.
Gratitude does wonderful things for your well being so it is worth practising on a daily basis. Make sure you express it to the people who are with you in this experience.
8 Broaden and build.
Negative emotions narrow you down – anger or anxiety lead to a simple choice between fight and flight. Positive emotions allow you to think much more creatively and also to learn from even challenging experiences, coming out of them with a broader repertoire of coping skills.
9 Remember what really matters in life.
Just as frustrations had reached a head with lots going wrong and petty irritations on all sides, one of my beautiful nieces was hit by a car. Nothing, I repeat nothing, and certainly nothing material, mattered at that point. (She suffered a great deal but will be fine eventually) Anything else is just stuff.
10 Celebrate again!
You got through it, made it! Don’t just rush on to the next item on your list. Take time to savour, to appreciate, to boast about all you have done, to realise the strengths you used to get through and then really enjoy your achievement.