Stress Resilience: 7 Disciplines for Wisdom at Work

by Dr. Joel & Michelle Levey
Excerpted from Quality of Mind (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991)

Life’s myriad of changes often lead to an accumulation of stress. Here is a compendium of simple, common sense strategies for transforming mental and physical tension into energy creatively and effectively expressed. None of these strategies are new. Many will be familiar to you, but we often need to be reminded. Circle the ones you’d like to remember more often. Then add your own to the list:

  1. Take time to be alone on a regular basis, to listen to your heart, check your intentions, re-evaluate your goals and your activities.
  2. Simplify your life! Start eliminating the trivia.
  3. Take deep, slow breaths frequently, especially while on the phone, in the car, or waiting for something or someone. Use any opportunity to relax and revitalize yourself.
  4. Plan to do something each day that gives you energy, something you love to do, something just for you.
  5. When you’re concerned about something, talk it over with someone you trust, or write down your feelings.
  6. So “no” when asked to do something you really don’t want to do. Read a book on assertiveness if you have trouble doing this in a firm but kind way.
  7. Remember to use helpful clichés such as, “In a hundred years, who will know the difference?” “What doesn’t weaken us makes us stronger,” or “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
  8. Exercise regularly!
  9. Remember, it takes less energy to get an unpleasant task done right now than to worry about it all day.
  10. Take time to be with nature, people, music, and children. Even in the city, noticing the seasonal changes of the sky or watching people’s faces can be a good harmonizer.
  11. Practice consciously doing one thing at a time, keeping your mind focused on the present. Do whatever you’re doing more slowly, more intentionally, and with more awareness and respect.
  12. Choose not to waste your precious present life on guilt about the past or concern for the future.
  13. Learn a variety of relaxation techniques and practice at least one regularly.
  14. When you find yourself repeatedly angry in similar situations, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?” Anyone or anything that can make you angry is showing you how you yourself let yourself be controlled by expectations of how someone or something should be. When we accept others, ourselves, and situations for what they are, we become more effective in influencing them to change in the way that we’d like them to.
  15. Practice stress-reducing communications: clarify what you hear by paraphrasing (“I understand you to be saying …”) and active listening. Use “I want” instead of “I need,” and “I choose to,” rather than “I have to.” Feel the difference in your mental attitude and your body when you do this.
  16. Become more aware of the demands you place on yourself, your environment, and on others to be different from how they are at any moment. Demands are tremendous sources of stress.
  17. If your schedule is busy, prioritize your activities and do the most important ones first.
  18. When you read your mail, act on it immediately, don’t put it off.
  19. Take frequent relaxation breaks.
  20. Carry a card with four or five personal affirmations written on it (for example, I am calm and relaxed. I am confident and capable of handling any situation, etc.)
  21. Organize your life to include time for fun, spontaneity, and open spaces. Set a realistic schedule allowing some transition time between activities.
  22. Eliminate unnecessary commitments.
    Smile and laugh more.
  23. Learn to delegate responsibility.
  24. Treat yourself to a massage or learn to massage your own neck, shoulders, and feet.
  25. Monitor your intake of sugar, salt, caffeine, and alcohol.
  26. Create and maintain a personal support system — people with whom you can be “vulnerable.”
  27. Seek out friends or professional help when you feel unable to cope.
  28. Watch clouds or moving water. Notice the silence between sounds, the space between thoughts.
  29. Use your own distress to teach yourself to be more patient, caring, and compassionate toward yourself and others.
  30. Remember to stop and smell the flowers.

Excerpted from Joel & Michelle Levey’s book, Quality of Mind: Tools for Self-Mastery & Peak Performance