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How to Navigate Stress, Coping, and Compassion

To succeed, we cannot let fear paralyze us -- we must find a way to navigate through the stress.

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Stress is a popular word these days. When you look around, it’s not hard to see why.

People struggle for time.

They worry about their jobs, their kids, and their futures.

They struggle to know if they can make their dreams happen.

We do not know what to believe in the news, and once-solid guarantees have dissolved. 

The world is, quite literally in some places, on fire. 

But if we’re going to succeed, then we have to find a way to navigate through the stress. It can’t paralyze us with fear. We can’t get so overwhelmed that we do nothing at all.

Two keys to getting yourself and others through stress

There’s no single best way to navigate stress. What matters to you might not matter to your coworker or neighbor, and your goals and circumstances can look drastically different. You might not feel your emotions at the same level someone else does, and your personality can direct you to certain activities over others. 

So what you have to do is connect with what you feel. What makes you feel negative? What gives you joy? Think about memories you want to hold onto and share with your friends and family. Then consciously, proactively make time for whatever lifts you.

Maybe that’s playing games with friends. Maybe it’s hiking or talking to somebody on the phone.

Whatever it is, accept that it’s how you cope and take care of yourself. Don’t compare it to what anyone else is doing. They might have a way of dealing with stress that’s just the opposite of what will work for you. Be real with yourself about what works.

Secondly, remember that there’s nobody between you and yourself.

A lot of the time, we’ll beat ourselves up over things we feel bad about or think we’re stupid. But the fact is, we all mess up. Still, we’re all pretty darn good people — and that includes you.

So make time to acknowledge that you’re good. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t obsess over the negative things you’ve done. The worst thing you can do is spend the rest of your life focusing on those few things that you’re just not happy about. Stop picking on yourself and making yourself so raw. Nobody can interfere with your inner critic and protect you but you

However, navigating stress isn’t just about being compassionate to yourself. It’s about being compassionate to others, too. 

Think about it. Don’t you usually have a better day at home or work if you can put out someone else’s emotional fire? Why is that? 

People read and play off each other in how they feel. So taking care of others and getting rid of their stress, resolving conflicts — that helps you, too. And you don’t have to agree with someone to cognitively understand and show respect.

Take a moment to imagine mustard and ketchup before you. Maybe you’re sure that mustard is the way to go. But if someone walks in and grabs the ketchup, it’s not kind to dismiss them and say they’ve got it all wrong. And it’s not kind to force your method and tell them that they have to use mustard.

At the end of the day, mustard and ketchup are both viable choices. There’s no definitive, factual answer to which is better — it’s just a matter of preference.

Managing stress with compassion is the same way. Some folks want to spend time in stress, and that’s OK. Some folks just want to move on from it and pretend like it didn’t happen. And that’s OK. All that matters is that, when all is said and done, the individual is able to walk away from the stressful situation feeling better than they did before. If you can remember that and allow other people to deal with how they feel in their own unique way, all while respecting what you personally need when it comes to self-love, you’ll be in great shape.

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