Module 4: Set Yourself Up For Success (30 min)
> Small positive and permanent changes will build toward long term gains
You can read all you want about managing stress. It won’t mean shit unless you take action for yourself. We mentioned this earlier but it’s worth repeating here again.
In order for all of this stress management stuff to work, you need consistent and dedicated effort on making small positive and permanent changes in your lifestyle and behavior and then progressively work your way up.
Notice that the emphasis on small, positive and permanent?
Every small positive change and improvement will build toward larger and long-term benefits.
We’re not aiming to conquer Mount Everest here, folks. We’re focusing on getting to the top of small hills and gradually working our way up.
Remember our eustress formula for stress management?
METHOD + MINDSET + MAINTENANCE = EUSTRESS
For each part of the eustress formula mentioned in this course, there are ways to take bite-sized portions and start small. This allows you to get small wins quickly and build your momentum.
METHOD: Apply the 4A method to a handful of low level stressors first before taking on more
MINDSET: Change your mindset by retraining your brain one stressor at a time
MAINTENANCE: Phase-in each of the stress immunity activities then work your way up
Small gains in each of the three parts will build up to bigger ones. Your stress management abilities increase and improve allowing you to handle more difficult challenges.
However, this doesn't mean that you need to be in the very top right corner of the chart, running at full speed. What it means is that the eustress formula will help you get to an ideal spot in the zone that works for you.
With time and practice, you'll get better at applying the eustress formula in your day-to-day life.
As the environment starts to throw more stress at you (and it most definitely will), you'll have the skills to defend yourself and stay in your ideal spot in the zone.
The opposite is also true.
As your personal skills and capabilities grow, your sweet spot in the eustress zone will naturally move upward so that you can continue to get the same levels of satisfaction and reward.
Set 'SMART' Goals
A great way to cross the finish line with goals is to make your goals S.M.A.R.T.
Specific: be specific about the goal, task or activity
Measurable: identify or develop a measurement to check results
Achievable: the actions or steps needed must be realistically doable
Relevant: the end result must have meaning or direct benefit
Time-based: set a realistic target time to start and complete it
Let’s apply this to a stress immunity activity example.
SPECIFIC: Increasing sleep time to be more alert and productive during the day
MEASURABLE: Increasing sleep time from 6 hours to a consistent 7 hours a night
ACHIEVABLE: Reduce TV time by 1 hour (delete two DVR series) and in bed sooner
RELEVANT: More restful sleep helps the mind and body recover; feel better overall
TIME-BASED: Begin tonight and maintain Sunday through Thursday nights
Set Target Times
Here are suggested timetables for the 4A method and for building and maintaining stress immunities. You can use these as guidelines when you’re developing your ‘smart’ goal timing targets.
Feel free to adjust the timetable to suit your needs and preferences. Just be sure to have a specific timetable in place that you can achieve.
4A Method Recommended Timetable
TYPE OF STRESSOR
TIMING TO COMPLETE
Low Level Stressor
5 to 10 stressors
1 day to 1 week
Mid Level Stressor
3 to 5 stressors
1 to 3 months
High Level Stressor
1 to 2 stressors
Don't try to attack a bunch of high-level stressors right away. That's way hard to do.
Start out with the low level stressors to get your 4A skills going. As you knock out low level stressors, you'll get better at using and applying the 4A method and more importantly, you'll be creating more space in your day-to-day life. This results in quicker relief.
The extra room you'll be creating for yourself will give you the chance to focus more on building and maintaining stress immunities and thinking about how to solve the mid and high level stressors.
It all starts with small wins.
Targets For Building Stress Immunities
Get More Sleep
7 to 8 hours of sleep nightly
5 minutes or more daily
Build up to Monday thru Friday
30 minutes daily
The same philosophy applies here too.
Don’t try to master all 5 of the stress fighting immunities all at once. Instead, pick one that you know you can do and stick with consistently. Get that one mastered and in your full control. Then, move onto the next easier activity and so on until you’ve got all 5 up to the point where it’s part of your natural behavior.
For a small group of you, it may only take a couple of months to master all the skills. For most all others, mastering all the skills will take six to nine months or maybe as long as a year.
Once you’ve mastered all five of the activities, you can further improve yourself by upping the baseline targets. For example, increase the amount of meditation time from 5 minutes to 15, 30 or even 60 minutes and longer. Or, eating healthy 24x7 all time (if you can manage this, let us know how you did it).
The only activity baseline target that should remain the same is sleep. Keep it to 7 to 8 hours a night. Excessive sleep isn’t good for you.
Set A 'SMART' Goal Now
Now, let’s give this a shot. Choose one of the stress immunity activities that you’d like to get started on. Make it a realistic one that you can stick to.
Print out this ‘smart’ goal worksheet and complete each section.
As you are working toward your goal, keep this worksheet pinned up somewhere in your cubicle so that it acts as a reminder until it's knocked out. If you want or need more oversight, use the reminder or to-do function in your email calendar to trigger alerts on a daily or weekly basis.
Side note: you could also use this worksheet as an add-on to the 4A method worksheet to set goals for solving job stressors.
As you get better with using and applying the eustress formula, you will feel a noticeable improvement in your life.
And whether there’s improvement or things got worse, we need to find out why. If it got better, we can focus more on what worked for you to maximize the gains. If things got worse, we can take a closer look as to why and what actions can be taken.
Set a six month calendar reminder for yourself right now.
Then at the six month mark, do the following:
1. Re-take the daily hassles stress test
2. Find your prior hassles stress test worksheet and results
3. Compare the results from both tests
4. On the new test, highlight hassles that have changed (positive or negative)
5. Print out this six month reassessment worksheet and answer the questions
Here’s the set of questions from the six month reassessment worksheet:
- Have your overall scores improved or worsened and why?
- What overall things did or didn’t you do that lead to this latest score?
- Which specific hassles changed the most (for better or worse) and why?
- For stressors that worsened or new stressors, reassess the 4A method with smart goals.
- What can or should you do next? How can you improve yourself in the next six months?
For most of you, the above timetable, targets and six month self-assessment are enough to get you started on your own. Plus, you’ll always have this online guide as your resource to continually refer back to.
With each group of stressors that you manage down successfully, there will always be new ones that will pop up. You need to continually apply the eustress stress formula. Stress management is an ongoing process.
Like we mentioned earlier, the objective here isn’t to eliminate all stress, but to eliminate as much *unnecessary* stress as possible and effectively manage the rest to work FOR you and not AGAINST you.
The aim is to get you in the eustress zone more often.
Remember, you have total control over how you respond to stress. Make stress your slave.
With each win, whether small or large, have a celebration for yourself and give yourself a high five, baby!
You’re making progress and improving your overall well-being. When things start to build in a positive direction, you’ll find yourself in the eustress zone more often and life becomes gradually happier, healthier and more productive.
Now go forth. Practice and apply what you’ve learned, my little grasshopper.
P.S. - We hope this free online course was helpful for you. A lot of effort went into it. If you have a friend that’s also stressin’ out, send them to us. We want to help them too.