The old man lived alone because his only son was in prison. One day the old man wrote a letter to his son, saying:
Dear Son, I am feeling pretty bad because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my potato garden this year. I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. If you were here, all my troubles would be over. I know you would dig the plot for me, if you weren’t in prison.
Shortly afterward, the old man received this telegram.
“For heaven’s sake, Dad, don’t dig up the plot. That’s where I buried the GUNS!!”
At 4:00 a.m. the next morning, a dozen FBI agents showed up and dug up the entire garden without finding any guns. Confused, the old man wrote another note to his son telling him what had happened and asked him what to do next.
His son’s reply:
“Go ahead and plant your potatoes, Dad. It’s the best I could do for you from here.”
I like that story. The old man was stressed out and the son helped him get rid of his stress.
But you may not be that “lucky.” If you’re like most people, you’ve got plenty of stress in your life, work, and relationships and no one is going to ride into town and take your stress away. It’s up to you. That’s the bad news.
The good news is there’s plenty of things you can do that will lessen or even eliminate your stress.
► 1. Do only the most important things.
Not too long ago, when you asked people how they were doing, they almost always replied with a polite “fine.”
But these days, more and more people are answering that question by saying such things as “Busy, busy, busy … or … I’m a bit overwhelmed.”
When I hear something like that, I know that person is very poor at prioritizing. Sure, they’ve got a lot on their plate. Who doesn’t these days? But their stress does not come from how many tasks they have to complete; it comes from giving every task too much importance.
► 2. Practice an attitude of gratitude.
The more thankful you are the less stressed you can be. It’s a basic truth in human psychology.
So every day take two minutes to list all the things you’re thankful for. And quit thinking about all negatives in the world … in Washington, in the papers, at your workplace, and amongst your in-laws.
I’m not suggesting that you bury your head in the sand and never address these issues. Of course not.
But if you want to have less stress at work, at home, or in your relationships, you can’t spend all your time focusing on how bad things are.
Consciously spend some time practicing an attitude of gratitude. It’s one of the most energizing forces in the world.
That’s why I’m offering my first-ever Blacktober Friday special. To express my gratitude. And make life a little less stressful for you. Let me explain.
Every year I see people get all stressed out by Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Millions of them are running around like frantic chickens with their heads cut off, hoping to snatch up a bargain somewhere. And the spirit of Thanksgiving, the attitude of gratitude they just celebrated the day before, seems to be gone.
So in the October 15th issue of the Tuesday Tip, I’m going to eliminate hundreds and thousands of dollars in travel expenses that clients pay when they bring me in to speak. Stay tuned for more information.
Continuing with my suggested stress busters,
► 3. Refrain from negative commentaries.
Be careful of putting your stressed-out thoughts into downbeat words. The more negative comments you make, the more you’ll ruin your day … and maybe your life.
I hear it all over the place when I speak in various organizations. People go on and on about “how bad things are.” And I hear it when a long-term employee takes the new hire under his wing and says something like, “You may be excited about your job now, but you just wait and see how you feel in a couple of years.”
To manage your own stress, refrain from negative talk. Or at the very least, restrain yourself from saying too many negative comments.
Of course, some of you may be wondering what there is to talk about if you cut out the negative talk. After all, that may be the climate that exists in your team or your family.
The answer is found in my fourth stress-busting technique:
► 4. Ask Brave Questions.
Talk about things you don’t normally talk about. Go beyond the superficial. Go beyond sports talk, the latest movie, or what’s going to be served at your next meal.
Ask Brave Questions. And you will be amazed at what you learn about your spouse, your kids, friends and relatives … even your coworkers and clients. And you’ll be amazed at how much the questions dissipate the stress.
Diane Rooks shared her experience with this technique. She said, “I purchased your BRAVE QUESTIONS book some time ago and have used it in many different situations, including talks with my own family members. But let me tell you about the amazing things that are happening when I use your Brave Questions with hospice patients and their families.”
“I’ve found that most people, when they’re dying, want so badly to talk about important issues … what their life has meant and their approaching death. For many reasons, however, the families are often reluctant to talk about those issues. So I ask my patients a few Brave Questions and the floodgates open. Some of their stories are absolutely incredible … full of wit and wisdom that make me laugh, learn, and cry.”
“And when I ask the family if they know these stories, most of the time their answer is ‘no.’ They’ve never talked about those kinds of things. They thought they knew everything there was to know about their loved one, but now they begin to realize how little they really know.”
“I tell my patients that their grandchildren would be interested in knowing these stories as well, so they ought to record the stories for them. One patient got so excited that she got out of bed and started typing her stories on her laptop! Her daughter couldn’t believe the change in her mother.”
The bottom line is you will have stress in your life. But you can manage or eliminate a lot of that stress by using the techniques I’ve just outlined for you.
Dr. Zimmerman’s Tuesday Tip, Issue 1007 – Beat the stress before it beats you