Being able to manage and minimise stress’s impact on your health is so important when you’re or a loved one is living with the impact of a challenging illness or injury. I’ve been sharing hints and tips on how you do this across several blogs and this is the fifth and final one in this series. They blog focus on the subtle psychological processes involved in taking control of yourself, your health, wellness, and your life. You can read the previous four blogs here:
- The illusion that you control your body a 100% – What we can control and influence regarding our bodies
- Living with a chronic condition feeling like a vicious circle? – How to identify when you may be getting into a psychological vicious circle and what to do about it
- Using your power well to manage your health and wellness – Parts 1 and 2 – About internal and external locus of control and how to tell where your locus of control is
Sometimes thoughts about how much of a pain someone or a situation is come unbidden. They whirl around in your head, repeating themselves. You just wish the person or situation would change. You feel you’ve done everything you can but nothing has changed, and you feel drained and frustrated. We’ve all been there.
Let’s change this
You don’t want to feel like this anymore. And I don’t want you to either. We’re in the last month of 2015, so let’s change that for next year. I’m going to give you 3 questions to ask yourself which will help you move through tough situations more quickly and minimise stress’s impact on your health.
These three questions build on what I’ve been writing about in the previous four blogs and will help you mitigate stress before it gets out of control. That is important. If stress is allowed to run rampant, it can have a negative impact on your health. And exacerbate any ongoing symptoms you may be living with from a long-term condition.
The three questions to ask yourself to minimise stress’s impact on your health
In respect to any person or situation you find stressful, ask yourself:
- What aspects of this can I directly control?
- What can I influence?
- What is a concern, that thing which I don’t have the control or influence to change?
The C-I-C mnemonic is a helpful way to remember this.
This is based on Stephen Covey’s Circles of Control, Influence and Concern, which he wrote about in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I highly recommend this book.
What the 3 questions are getting at
In any stressful situation, there are those three aspects to contend with – Control, Influence, Concern. So you want to ensure you have identified all that is in your direct control and influence to do, be, think and feel. And those things you cannot control or influence? Sure they are concerning. But if you are spending all of your time and energy on concerns, it is energy and time you are not putting into yourself. And that is when you start to give your personal power away.
Here are some examples
Example – Your doctor (or anyone else) speaks to you in a tone of voice that makes you feel dismissed and like a small child.
Concern – The tone of voice your doctor uses is his/her choice. It has nothing to do with you. This is their ‘stuff’.
Influence – You can influence your doctor’s future responses by how you respond in turn.
Direct Control – How you choose to feel when your doctor uses that tone of voice. If that tone of voice triggers the child in you, that’s ok. Just don’t unpack and live there. Realise it, remind yourself you are an adult, move back into your adult space, and then respond. You can choose what you say and how you say it.
Example – An auto-immune response in your body.
Concern – Will an adverse auto-immune reaction happen again? Will I have a relapse?
Influence – We can influence our health now and into the future through our food and drinks choices, exercise, how we manage stress, etc.
Direct Control – Those choices we make to eat well or not, exercise or not, proactively manage stress as outlined in this blog and the last four, set and work towards goals for our ongoing rehabilitation, and live a life that resonates with our values.
Let go of what is in your sphere of Concern
So rather than have a massive sphere of Concern where you focus on things you have no control or influence over, minimise that by focusing on what you can control and influence. You know you are doing that when you hear yourself using active language where the focus is on what you can do such as, ‘I feel…, I can do…, I can respond…, I am…, Look at what I’ve done…, My responsibility is…’
Rather than wishing, wanting and hoping for something, do, be and become.
And what about other people and their ‘stuff’?
It’s their ‘stuff’. Leave it with them. It is not your job to carry it. You’ve got your own ‘stuff’ to control and influence.
What is it like for you?
If there is something you have been wishing, wanting and hoping for, what is one small thing in your control or influence you can do today to move yourself one step closer?
Pass it forward
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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2015
Covey, S.R. (1989) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. London, UK: Simon & Schuster UK Ltd.