Research has shown that the most successful individuals – the Type A personalities and perfectionists amongst us – will be more susceptible to stress than others, which probably comes as no surprise. Brian Anderson, managing director of Dale Carnegie Training South Africa, says: “It is next to impossible to avoid stress entirely. We can eat the right foods; we can get our eight hours sleep a night; we can take our yoga classes, but when stressful situations rear their ugly heads, even the most well-rested, green juice-guzzling, gym bag-toting individual may be at a loss as to how to cope with the problem.”
We all know the harmful toll that stress can take on our health, but in today’s fast-paced world of meetings, deadlines and around-the-clock pressure, how do we effectively manage this stress?
Dale Carnegie, an American writer and lecturer on topics such as self-improvement, salesmanship, corporate training and public speaking, swore by a set of stress-management principles in his famous book, ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’. These principles assist in the management of stress and are still relevant today; 100 years after Carnegie first began teaching in 1912.
1. Live in day-tight compartments
You have had a terrible day. A critical deal has fallen through. Your internet won’t work. In short, good old Murphy dropped by and everything that can go wrong has. Now go home, and forget about it entirely. Easier said than done? “Living in day-tight compartments is challenging but it is a habit we can cultivate. If we take life one day at a time and not worry about the next day, week or month’s commitments and concerns, we are a small step away from leading a better life. Worrying never improved any situation,” says Anderson.
2. Decide just how much anxiety a thing is worth and then refuse to give it more
You have just completed putting together your pitch in preparation for a meeting that you have with a potential new client the next day. It was a challenging brief but you put in the hours and you are proud of the finished product. You go to bed, intending to get a good night’s rest so you can be on peak form for your big pitch the following day, and then the inner dialogue starts: What have you forgotten? Should you have included that? Will it be good enough? “It is normal that you will be worried, but decide on a ‘healthy’ level of anxiety and an applicable ‘stress period’, and then refuse to give it any more thought. Allow yourself 15 minutes to go over everything in your head, and then turn off that mental laptop and go to sleep knowing you have given it your all,” explains Anderson.
3. Coping with a difficult situation
- Ask yourself: What is the worst that can possibly happen?
- Prepare to accept the worst
- Try to improve on the worst
Client X is unhappy with the new software you have installed for him. After throwing around expletives that would make Eminem blush and threatening to fire your company, he slams down the phone. Ask yourself, what is the worst that can happen? Answer: He could fire us. Then accept that as a reality. Lastly, try to improve on the worst: pick up the phone tomorrow when he has cooled down, explain your perspective and offer an alternative. If nothing else, he will appreciate your effort.
4. Cultivate a mental attitude that will bring you peace and happiness
Optimistic, positive people are far better equipped to deal with stress, and the reason for this is that they are more inclined to see opportunity in their losses. So Client X has told you he no longer requires your services? Fine, that gives you capacity to find new business with a client who appreciates the work you do… and who is less inclined towards profanity. Positive people are not luckier than the rest of us, they just understand that they can’t control what life throws at them, but they can control how they react to it.
“These simple tools can be applied to every situation and will enable us to manage stress effectively,” concludes Anderson.