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Stress. Balance, pedal, steer...

My team asked me to write something about stress and it caused me so much stress I couldn’t get anything else done! Sound familiar?

April is recognized as National Stress Awareness Month to bring attention to the negative impact of a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. Managing stress is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Knowing how to manage stress can improve mental and physical well-being as well as minimize exacerbation of health-related issues. Stress is an automatic reaction to something bothersome. Stress compromises the way we think and feel. It complicates life, making everything seem difficult, heavy, and overwhelming. Stress creates many negative effects on our physical and mental health, but the good news is we can disrupt this automatic reaction and learn to respond to stressors differently.

Stress. At a certain point in your life, you think the stress you regularly experience will eventually dissipate. We keep telling ourselves things like when… "I finally get out of school my life will be less stressfulI. I finally get that job I’ve been wanting.I get that promotion. I turn a certain age. I find that special someone. The kids reach a certain age. I have a certain income. I get to vacation. The mortgage is paid off. I’m retired."

There are some great resources out there that can help with this, and we’ve got some resources below. But, most importantly, if you are in a state of chronic stress, in effect it never goes away, there are a resources and experts out there who can help.

As employers, especially when there are not enough people to fill all of the employment needs,, we bear some of the responsibility to help identify and reduce the stress in the workplace. Many employers, due to the lack of talent, have strategically decided to stop providing certain services, or products, or examine the risk for new innovations. But where necessity is the mother of invention one organization who might stop doing, building or creating opens the window for another who will. And, in this country, the opportunities abound. Easier said than done, but it’s also very important to be fully aware of the markets and customer demands we serve.

A new microbrewery opened up a couple miles from where we live. It felt like two men and a hammer as this little building took the better part of the past three years to complete. When the time finally came for it to open, they promoted a soft opening, basically opening on Fridays and Saturdays for the first couple of weeks. The lagers they brew are pretty good, and they’ve partnered with a local winery and a local distillery to also sell their beverages. But, not wanting to overpromise and under deliver, decided only to be open a few days a week, 4 as of now. They don’t want to become indentured servants to the business, so they’ve adapted their business model to accommodate undue stress and as a result cause their product, or, more importantly, service to suffer, simply because they can’t find enough people to go full bore 7 days a week.

Here’s a simplistic solution to reduce and then eliminate some stress in your life. First, list everything you seek to accomplish. It may be a long list, but creating this will help you focus on what is weighing on your mind.

Next, prioritize them as A, B and C. A is critical and important and must be done, either because it will cause you health, financial, relationship, or some other kind of harm. I’ve got to take my xyz medicine or go to the dentist to relieve that pain otherwise I’m putting myself at risk. B’s are important but not critical. If I want more energy and less health challenges, a little exercise everyday will probably help. I think I’ll walk for 20 minutes 5 days this week. We’ll reevaluate after 1 month and modify that program from there. C’s are nice to have but not critical or important. Once you finish the A’s and B’s you’ll have time for the C’s.

If you can get ahead of the A’s and B’s, the amount of stress you experience in life will be healthy stress – not debilitating. Think of this a building for tomorrow. Since you don’t know what tomorrow will bring, what can you do now to prepare for the unexpected. Why? Because the future is incredible – just imagine where we’ve come in just the past 100 years. Moore’s Law as it applies to semiconductors isn’t quite as correlated to the advances in technology in general; but where we’re going in the next 100 years will make today look like the Dark Ages. A scientific study published by the National Geographic states today's 5-year-olds will likely live to 100. What will their lives be like? For children in wealthier nations, 80 will be the new 60. That means a life filled with day-to-day technological advances—and a new way of thinking about school, work, and retirement.

Today’s challenge is instant gratification. Perhaps you’ll have that, but to the majority of us, more than 90%, can live well-managed and fulfilling lives. I like what Thomas Jefferson said, "I'm a great believer in luck. I've found that the harder I work, the more I have of it." Be realistic, don’t get caught up in the hype brought on by the marketing wizards but live by the reasons you find important, not those influencers tell you should be important to you. It’s your life, not theirs.

Henry David Thoreau made this profound statement, “I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

One of the great opportunities we have today is stress. As all of you managing dozens or hundreds of individuals throughout your life have learned, you cannot predict with certainty one thing – people. As such, the more you deal with challenges – which cause various levels of stress – the more resilient you will be when the next challenge surfaces. You will be better equipped to deal with the next one. Cobble enough of those together and in no time you’ll be the one constantly sought to solve the problems. With that expertise the reward both personally and professionally is exceptional.

Life is not linear. Regardless of your plan, something is going to modify it. That’s the importance of resilience – in effect having more agility. Very few things happen the way we think they will. Think back to yesteryear about your high school/college experiences then fast forward to today. That roadmap went in so many different directions. Not one of my professors or mentors told me anything about life’s trajectory. If we teach and model resilience to our children, our world would without a doubt be a better place. Failure is inevitable at some point. The key is to learn and become stronger as a result of it.

Remember when you were little and just learning to ride a bike. That whole balance, pedal, steer thing, coupled with the fear you are going to fall off the bike and get hurt. One of my granddaughters is learning to ride her bike without training wheels. She’s a little scared about falling off and skinning her knees or scraping her hands. But she is determined. She wants to have the independence to ride her bike on her own without training wheels – she’s a big girl now! But she is scared and the stress of learning this new skill frightens her. Little by little, and the patience of a mom and dad – and a grandfather who can’t necessarily run beside her as long as he once could (yikes!) has allowed her to be taught, perhaps a little mentoring and coaching, that once you’ve got this skill it’s amazing where that bike might take you! Just like her, every cyclist in the Tour de France started the same way. Facing that stress, learning from it, adapting to the whole balance, pedal, steer concept seems to have made a big difference down the road.

Stress – think about all of the graduates transitioning to the next phase of their lives in the next month or so. Admiral William H. McRaven recited one of the best commencement speeches at the University of Texas in 2014. Having had an office there in Austin for almost 8 years, I wish I was fortunate enough to have seen this live. It’s great advice to this year’s graduates who and talks about the things we can accomplish by facing and addressing life’s stress. ( ).

Stress will always be part of our lives. Break it down into manageable pieces and remember, balance, pedal, steer – there’s success on the other side of that learning and adaptation.

I wish you well,


Here’s a few other articles worth the quick reference. I think you’ll enjoy them.

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