How to Reduce Stress: An Action Plan That Keeps You In Control

This really brings us back to the beginning when we first started talking about this subject of stress.  Stress is the direct result of feeling like there is too much to do, relationship issues, deadlines to meet and feeling like we have lost control of our selves, our lives and sometimes even our feelings.  In the martial arts what we teach students is a Black Belt Success Cycle. black belt success cycle
The Black Belt Success Cycle goes like this:
Know what you want
Have a plan and a success coach
Take consistent action
Review your progress and renew your goals
Here is how this relates to reducing stress.
1.  First you must know what you want / or what the problem is.  Can you identify what you feel is wrong.  When, Why and Where is it happening?  What would you like to see happen that would make your life better?  What is your goal? 

2.  Brainstorm some ideas of how to reach your goal.  They do not have to make sense to you right now and you do not have to think of the perfect plan now.  Come up with many different ways that you believe you could solve the problem.  If you cannot think of any, talk to your supporters for their ideas and then get them written down.  Now it is time to select a solution.  You may want to have a ‘success coach’ as you weigh your different options and to help you stay on track.  Pick one that you believe will help you reach your goal and that you are comfortable with.

3.  Commit to working your plan and take consistent action. Persevere and do not give up.  If you have a ‘success coach’ they can help guide you and keep you on the path you have chosen.

4.  Review your progress. Is what you are trying working or not working?  Do you need to tweak a part of it or try something new altogether?  Has something changed for you, are the circumstances or end results the same as when you started on this path?  Regularly checking in and then renewing and sometimes revising your goals will keep you feeling like you are in control of your life and the decisions being made that effect you.

Making decisions and choices about your life is a key part of reducing stress.  In our next series of article we will discuss how to make the best decisions possible so that you stay on the path that will make you feel the best and result in the success you want out of your life.

How to Reduce Stress Part 9: Making Good Decisions Keeps You In Control

When you are younger most of your decisions are made for you by others.  As you get older, you are making more of your own decisions, and along with that privilege come the responsibility for the consequences for each of those decisions.  Life is all about choices, and we all learn that it is about every choice that we make. 

If we choose to eat poorly it will affect us both short term and long term.  Choosing who we will be our friends, what parties we will go to, what and how hard we study in school, and will we say yes or no when faced with smoking, drugs, and personal relationships.

One thing I have learned about decision making is that when we are faced with making a decision very quickly, without time to think about it, our thought process may not always be in line with what our goals are.  Other factors like peer pressure and our emotions may sway us to do things we may later wish we had not done. Thinking ahead and deciding what we will do if put in a certain situation will help us make better decisions when faced with other pressures.

Deciding if our choice or decision is good or bad can easily be summed up in this question, Is it the right thing to do?  We will know or have that feeling in our gut if others will be put in danger, disrespected or hurt physically or emotionally.  We know if we are breaking laws, lying, or making things worse for our friends or parents.  We can examine ourselves to see how we will feel when the decision is carried out and if we will be letting others down including our parents and ourselves.  All of this takes time and needs to be thought about ahead of time.

In business, the process for making quick decisions goes like this:

  1. What is the core issue
  2. What are the facts that will effect this decision
  3. Step back! Do I have to make this an immediate choice?
  4. Visualize the outcome.  What are the consequences?
  5. Follow through with the decision and carrying it out.


In our personal life in those moments when a quick decision needs to be made, these are good questions too.  Making good choices will certainly reduce the stress in our life, and the bad consequences that we will have to deal with, if our choice is not the best for us.  Finally, if you make a bad choice, deal with the consequences and learn from it.  It is not the end of the world, and if we continue to beat ourselves up over a bad decision, our stress levels will continue to rise.

How do leaders make choices?

This week we have been talking to our students about making choices and decisions.  Making choices is based on what is best for the group or even for us as an individual is what leaders do.  So how do the best leaders make their choices?

The simple answer is you need to consider what the results will be, the good and the bad that will come from the choice.  One way of approaching that is to make a list of the “pros and cons”.  Weighing the pros and cons, and I like to write them down,  will help us to see the consequences – good or bad- that will result from either direction we may take. 

Some choices may be very simple, while others may have more impact on our lives and our happiness.  For instance choosing whether we get a pet or not get a pet, we will weigh out how much fun it will be vs how much work is involved.  We may even weigh the differences and the affects of choosing a dog or a cat.  It may be that an iguana might be the perfect pet for us.

Other choices may be more difficult.  What if we had to choose between going out for a school play or spending more time on school work.  There will be many things to consider both in short term and long term goals that we have.  All leaders need to make these tough decisions and sometimes we are not really sure what to do.  We want to remember that leaders do not have to know all the answers.  They do need to have around them others that they trust though. 

If you are a student you have your parents that you can go to and talk about your list of pros and cons to help you come to a good choice for you.  You may even have other adults in your life that you may want to ask how they see a situation.  Even your friends may be available to speak to, although you do need to be careful that you do not only seek out the advice of those that you think will agree with you. 

If you are an adult it may be your partner or someone in the organization that you work for that may be there for you to bounce ideas off.  It may be a trusted friend or an advisor or for many of us we may have a mentor that we can talk to.  But in the end it is us as the leader that must make the final decisions.  As a leader we do not want to “pass the buck” or even avoid risk-taking completely.  We do want to make informed decisions that with all the information at hand will be best for those that are following us.

Leadership: skills & 3 types of leaders

One of the most important skills that a leader needs is one of communication.  Communication is made up of two parts both of which are very important, but the first one is vital to the second.  That first skill is listening.  The focus and attitude for listening can really make the difference in a leader that is respected by others or not.  

How do we teach our children about listening.  There are several ways of showing that we are listening to others including, looking at them in the eyes, nodding from time to time, being able to repeat what they say back to them, keeping our bodies still and not fidgeting, and not being distracted by electronics, noises, others, or even worst – our own thoughts.

When I was talking to our students about this subject, I told some of them that sometimes I find my eye wandering to see who is next in line to speak to me.  Have you ever done that?  Well I have and I am working on practicing keeping my eyes, attention and thoughts on the person and the message they are delivering to me. 

Being a good communicator also includes being able to speak well.  For many of our students it may start with speaking loud enough for others to hear them.  Now when we get the volume up we have to think about the attitude of the voice and person.  Which of the following 3 types of leaders are they;  passive, aggressive, or assertive?

A passive leader is one that seldom does the work and finds it difficult to make decisions.  They may even agree with everyone but not want to be responsible for making a call or decision.  The aggressive leader is full of opinions, generally their own, and are more than happy to push them on everyone around them.  They seldom are good listeners. 

Then there is the assertive leader.  This person is a good listener, willing to hear out all opinions and ideas before drawing a conclusion and making an advised decision.  This assertive leader would ask others to help them in a kind way and would always be willing to say thank you.  They would recognize to others the work of his group and be willing to share the rewards.  This is the kind of leader most of us would like to work for, this is the kind of leader we all want to be. 

Empathy: needs focus on others

Have you ever noticed how many times people are so focused on their own needs, wants and feelings that there is very little time or effort spent on how others might be feeling.   Last month we talked about being open-minded and accepting the differences of each other, and what better way of doing this than to be aware of the needs of others as we make decisions.  To do so effectively we must understand the feelings of other persons.

Some have put it this way, “We must climb inside the other person”, “Walk in their shoes”, to really be able to respond to situations in a way that is empathetic.  The very first step in this process is to be able to read and understand people’s feelings.  This calls for taking the time to listen and observe body language, gestures, tone of voice and other observations to help us understanding the other person. 

The step of listening is so important in this observing.  Not just hearing but ‘deep listening’ , observing where they are coming from and why they be taking the stand that they are taking.  Of course asking good questions and listening closely to the answer without pre-judging or thinking we know the answer is the first key step in being motivated to respond to the needs of others.

How good are you at understanding?  If you were to rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 where would you be at this point, and more important – what could you do that would increase the score?  This month lets consider this together and see if we can raise our awareness in ourselves and in those around us. 

Discipline: Definition

October word of the month at Balanced Life Skills is Discipline.  Discipline can be about following the rules of others and society, and at the same time being able to think for ourselves and follow the rules we set for ourselves.   This month we will explore this even more, to find ways and reasons that we can show good discipline and use self-discipinet to make good decisions.   Our students will learn the role that discipline plays in creating a succesful life.


Young students:

Discipline means: I can control my body and mind to do what’s right, safe and kind!

Older students:

Discipline means making yourself do what’s righ, fair and necessary even when you don’t feel like it.

There will be more discussions on this site of this word to help everyone discuss it with their own children and to look at it more deeply with themselves in the coming month. Check back with us or you may join our community for even more information.