Ever wonder what sweating the smallish things we hear so much about means? Or, why one person’s smallish things are another’s big things?
It’s about perspective. How we choose to look at change determines our behaviour. The good news is we each determine how we react to anything going on around us!
For example, a client (that I will call Tom) was facing an arduous eighteen-month surgical reconstruction process when he came to see me. Not exactly a thrilling prospect! He subsequently completed three major procedures without any complications, brilliant! He was healing well and remained infection free, something to celebrate given his risk profile…
His fourth procedure was expected to be the most complex yet. He awoke to an unexpected complication. The incision site swelled much more than expected during surgery rendering closure impossible. Artificial skin was covering the open wound, and expected to last 2-3 weeks until the swelling subsided and closure was once again possible. Tom saw it as a minor bump in the road until infection set in five days later. At that point, he was told another surgical intervention was required to save the tissue; antibiotics alone were insufficient. His ten-day hospital stint suddenly became a four-week stay. News that could easily have derailed his positive attitude…
Tom was fortunate, his wife (whom I’ll call Lindsay), talked him through the anxiety of the infection spreading and even more interventions being a possibility. It wasn’t irrational, after all superbugs and bacteria thrive in hospital settings. So, what did he do to manage his fear and help his body heal itself?
What and how is it done?
Tom followed five steps to take the “bad news” in his stride:
- Letting go of that which we cannot control
- We can choose to spend energy on activities where we cannot control the outcome, or we can choose to invest energy where there is a genuine ability to. It is about living in the moment rather than several possible moments, many of which never come to pass.
- For instance, Tom could control his attitude and behaviour; the rest lay in the hands of his medical team.
- Recognize the signs your body is giving you as the response process starts
- Start to recognize your body’s physically responses (i.e.: heart rate, stomach churning, breathing rate, etc.) to irritation/stress. Listen to your inner chatter (i.e.: what are you saying to yourself during those moments in time?).
- Recognizing quickly how your body responds to stress or anxieties is the best way to avoid downward unproductive spirals.
- Replace the unuseful response with a useful one
- We each have control over our reactions and responses. No one can “make us” react or feel any particular way; we do it ourselves through an unconscious process.
- A mindset of “I am in charge of myself’ allows Tom to control his response using posture (e.g.: smiling or laughing), standing or sitting taller, slower breathing, and recalling positive medical experiences.
- Reframe the situation within yourself
- Seeing the event-taking place as an opportunity to develop more personal awareness, flexibility and behavioural flexibility.
- If Tom steps into the imaginary shoes of his doctor, how might that experience change how he sees, hears, feels or thinks about the situation?
- Look for the funny side of things!
- If you laugh about something in the future once the emotion is gone, why not laugh about it right now? This step reminds us of the power of humour, a well-researched therapeutic activity.
If your existing techniques for managing stress in your life are not working well for you, these simple steps are well worth trying. Sign into the Member Section and share your views, tips and tricks.