How to Conquer Your Stress With Your Own Thrival Plan
We are all under extraordinary stress at times. The key is understanding the source of our stress and how we best handle that stress. Stress can be a character-builder as they say, or it can be a destroyer. Let's explore the types of stress and how we can assemble a plan to succeed.
Types of Stress
There are many types of stress, all of which introverts can be familiar with:
Unexpected Event Stress: introverts are often creatures of habit. So when something shakes up our plan, it can be very disruptive. We scramble to deal with the new stress and put our life back in order as best, and as quickly, as we can. We, or someone we love, gets sick, weather disasters strike and cause distraction and destruction, companies close, or our job is threatened. These all create extraordinary stress. We don't usually see these coming. We can't be overwhelmed by their possibility, but we suspect if/when they do strike, we will be a mess. The best we can really do in advance is develop some steps or contingencies to try to either minimize the risk (be as healthy as possible) or the impact of these unexpected events (have backup plans to take care of any critical obligations if we or our family members get sick, ensure you have safety kits and emergency kits with batteries, flashlights, etc in the case of a weather emergency, build an emergency fund to weather any employment storm that may strike). Spending a bit of time to contemplate these scenarios is well worthwhile and can help reduce the stress of anticipation, as well as the anxiety when these events do strike.
Stress From Others: this type of stress is all around us - from our co-workers and our bosses, and from the extroverted society that can make us feel second-class or unwanted. Though we may wish to, we can't really control these. It's largely the world we live in. But I believe with a strong sense of authenticity we gain the confidence to diffuse this stress. We can get to the point where what others think matters less. We believe in ourselves, our strengths, our perspectives, and we stand tall in our own skin. This is a Phase 3 (Enlightenment) and beyond sort of place, where we know that we matter and our own approach is true, so we no longer need validation from others. In earlier phases of struggle (Phases 1 & 2: Unaware & Uninformed), this place seems impossible but when we finally discover Enlightenment, it can be so freeing and empowering.
Stress From Ourselves: this type of stress is different from the first. It is comforting to stay in our own place (reflective, solo hobbies, doing our own thing, staying within a small group of confidantes). After all, we can revel in our own selves without fear of reprisal while avoiding the stress from others we discussed above. But I believe introverts are often blessed with an extraordinary sense of purpose and initiative. This comes from our introspective nature and our view of the world. This can be a huge source of stress in our earlier phases because we don't have the confidence to explore or exhibit our purpose with others. That's too scary. But as we reach Enlightenment, we begin to see how we can use our own natural strengths to succeed and this builds the confidence to release our purpose as we move beyond toward Flourishing. So we begin to chase dreams and seek to make a difference. However, just because we are advancing through the stages never means this initiative is easy. In fact, stretching ourselves far from our comfort zone can be some of the most stressful times of our lives. How we can best cope with that stress is the subject of the rest of this week's blog.
So how do we best manage the stress from ourselves?
First, it is prudent to challenge whether the initiative you are introducing is worth the inevitable stress. Oftentimes it is but occasionally it is not, in which case it is admirable to shift focus elsewhere.
But if the initiative is deemed too important to shelve, we need a plan of action to manage the stress. Here is my true-life example...
I selected this topic in large part because I'm in exactly this place right now. I've recently published my latest book, The Essential Guide for Families with Down Syndrome. It represents my daughter's independence journey with additional stories from the community and expertise from professionals. It is a passion project of mine which I've been contemplating for years. In talking with many others in the Down syndrome community, I believe the information and resources captured are sorely lacking and can make a huge difference in the lives of many. Writing this book has been a joy, a labor of love as they say. However, sharing the book is often a struggle for many authors, especially introverted ones. Yet to get the message out, it must be done.
Earlier this year I pondered...how can I share this important message at national conventions and local Down syndrome associations across the country without being completely stressed for the rest of 2023? The first step is to recognize impending stress. The next step is to put a plan together.
My 2023 Thrival Plan
I decided I don't just want to survive my year of book marketing. The message and my work are too important for that. My health and happiness are also too important just to survive. I want to "thrive," to find a way to enjoy the process. In some ways, I view this as a status check on the work I've been doing for myself especially these last five years as I've traveled along the Five Phases of Introversion.
My Thrival Plan has three main categories:
Mindset: I've learned that a positive mindset is so critical. If we fill our brains with doubt and criticism, we are doomed but if we replace that with self-compassion and support, anything is possible. Mindset also involves believing in one's self. Reflecting on past successes where we have often dealt with a lot of stress and overcome doubt. I also am convinced Mindset includes stepping back - recognizing the emotions that often overwhelm the moment and detaching them so we can address our stress with rational evaluation and choices. Finally, mindset is reminding ourselves why we chose this journey. Reflecting on the purpose and impact changes our nerves into excitement. In my experience, Mindset is not something to just jot down but is a mantra to be reviewed and repeated daily so that we truly believe.
Preparation: Last week's blog talked about the greatest strength of most introverts - Planning and Preparation. I used to hide that strength but now I embrace it in everything I do. So why not make it the central part of my Thrival Plan? I employ my calendar and task lists to prepare my schedule of speaking events, but also to ensure I allocate time to prepare, practice, and re-energize from the events. When I know I've prepared for something, I know I can succeed. So I've wrapped myself in the cloak of preparation to boost my confidence and purpose.
Wellness: Over the years I've discovered different ways to maintain my wellness. Most are directed toward my mental well-being. It's no surprise, in retrospect, that I hardly did any of these activities when I was working 50hr+ per week in corporate America. Finding these activities and prioritizing time for them has helped me re-energize and put myself first. This wellness list could be quite different for you, but strive to have at least five items on your list that you do often, especially during stressful times.
Together, these 3 categories comprise my Thrival Plan. I have it posted on my office board, I put the Preparation and Wellness items on my calendar and task list, and I've even laminated a copy and I carry it in my pocket for quick reference and reminder.
I'm determined to make 2023 the most amazing year yet.
Someone at my Toastmasters meetings said she is striving to "get out of her own way." I love that. Basically, that is what I'm trying to do - lean on my Thrival Plan to allow me to not let fear keep me from sharing my purpose or to be so stressed doing it that I'm miserable.
We all have stressful things in our lives. Especially for those we initiate ourselves, congratulations on your courage. Create your own Thrival Plan and go forth with confidence!
If you'd like more information about The Essential Guide for Families with Down Syndrome or want to track (or join) my speaking engagements, check out my Beyond Down Syndrome website.
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