The first S is for STOP. Whatever you’re doing, whether productive or unproductive, stop for a period of time and don’t do anything. Depending on the level of stress, the duration of the stressors, and the acuity of the problem, you may stop for a minute, a day, or a week. The length of time doesn’t necessarily matter; it’s the act of being still, if only for a moment, that allows you to reset the brain and the body.
T is for TAKE A BREATH. Again, this can literally mean one single, gentle breath, a five minute meditation, or a longer period of physical relaxation. The idea here is to oxygenate your brain and body, slow your heart rate, and reduce the production of chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline that coincide with the body’s stress response. Once you’ve gotten your brain and body out of emergency mode, you can begin to think clearly and make thoughtful decisions.
R is for REVIEW YOUR OPTIONS. In life, there are a few things we can control, and an abundance of things that we cannot. Before you act, take the time to brainstorm everything you can do in a situation, and then make a decision about which options seem to have the greatest chance for success.
E is for ENGAGE YOUR BEST SELF. We are not perfect. No matter how intelligent, wise, thoughtful, or motivated we are, we’ll never get everything right. Make a decision to do the best you can with what you have, and move forward with your best self in the lead.
The last two S’s are for SET SAIL. Picture a sailboat on the open sea. The sailor can’t control the wind nor the ocean, but is able to move forward by making adjustments to the sails, the rudder, etc. When things get especially rough, it may be all the sailor can do just to stay afloat. As things calm down, the sailor is able to resume forward momentum. When you SET SAIL through stressful times, you use your skills to stay afloat, you enjoy moments of serenity, you ride the waves that inevitably come without allowing yourself to get overwhelmed by them, and you shimmy forward when the opportunity arises,.
So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress, try this: Stop, Take a Breath, Review your Options, Engage your Best Self, and Set Sail!