Put On That Clown Nose and Reduce Your Stress!


Stress management is just like a red foam clown nose! I know, it seems strange, but it is true. A simple red foam clown nose can be seen in so many ways. Some see the circus of their childhood and smile; some see the circus of their childhood and get scared. Some think it is fun, some silly, and some stupid. All of these different opinions, all derived from the same simple little red foam clown nose.

Stress is the same way: it’s not about the stress itself, but about how we perceive the stress.  Most of us have read the many articles written and studies published about stress management. Most of these articles promise tricks, tips, techniques and ideas to eliminate stress from our lives. That is an impossible task! We will never live “stress-free.” Sometimes we think, “Maybe when I retire…”, but I suspect that even retired people have stress too. What this tells us is that our goal is not the elimination of our stress, but rather the control of it.

The key to stress management is to take back control! In order to take back control of our stress we must first understand that some stress is good stress. What this means is that a certain amount of stress, called “optimal stress,” can give us energy, motivation, and help us to be more productive, more efficient, and more effective. When we go over our optimal stress daily limit for too long, we see the long term ramifications of stress. Every day you are given a certain amount of stress that is enough to give you energy and support your productivity, but not enough to be debilitating or harmful. As long as we work within that amount of stress, we are productive, efficient and effective. As you go about your day, you are asked to give your stress to different events, situations, problems and people. As long as you don’t “overspend” your stress, you can manage it. When you give more stress than you have, you become like a bank account… overdrawn!

If you think of your stress like money, it makes sense. When you have a limited amount of money, you make choices about what you will buy. When you have a limited amount of stress, you must make choices about where to spend it. We must make better decisions about how we choose to invest our stress. You must be more judicious with to whom and to what you give your stress.

So, remember how we said that some stress is good stress? That means that there are aspects of your life that, although stressful, are good. A wedding, your children, and your partner or your spouse are all rewarding AND stressful. These are vital components of our lives that we would never give up in the name of stress elimination. Most of us would not be willing to eliminate such stress!

There are also parts of our lives that are bad stresses. For example, traffic, difficult coworkers, annoying strangers—the person at the grocery store in the “15 items or less” line with 30 items! If you let those bad stresses take all of your stress bank account, you will not have any left for the good stresses–the ones you WANT to manage.

So, the keys to taking back control of your stress are, 1) When the stress hits you, stop and ask yourself, “Is this really a good use of my stress? Is it a good stress or a bad stress?”; 2) Once you have decided that it is a good stress, you take a deep breath and manage it; 3) If it is a bad stress, you must use the clown nose technique! Yes, the clown nose! Remember, everyone perceives it differently. You must redefine the way you perceive stress by framing the event in a new way. Traffic is no longer a bad stress – it is your “alone time”. That coworker is not difficult – just different. And don’t you feel sorry for that person at the grocery store that can’t count? How sad!

From now on, stress management is simple: just put on your clown nose and take back control of that stress!

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