I just finished running the last session of a six-week workshop I call, “The Happy Class.” Even though the class was limited to 20 people, on the first day several employees from the waiting list showed up to see if they could get in. Why was it so popular? Happiness is something everyone wants, but it isn't always easy to find it, especially when you’re under stress. Dealing with prickly people, pesky problems, and conflicting demands can wear on you. And when you add something like bladder leakage to the mix, it can take you to your knees. How do you raise your spirits when you’re feeling stressed? Here are three tips from The Happy Class that can help ease tension and make you more resourceful.
Tip 1: Focus on the solutions, not the problems. One of my most resourceful friends is Carol. She’s a busy professional, who juggles work, family, and an active social life. After having children (the smallest was nine pounds) she started dealing with light bladder leakage. She researched ways to manage it, worked with a pelvic floor physical therapist regularly and got it under control. Since a recent hysterectomy, the urge-to-go came back strong and has her heading to the restroom constantly. Then, last week, while walking up the steps to her front door, she experienced HEAVY bladder leakage. Her pants were soaked to her knees before she got the key in the door. As a woman, you can probably relate on some level to what Carol went through. We all have our own “This can’t be happening to me!” moments. The experience was stressful. But when she told me about it, she didn’t focus on the problem, the fear of it happening again, or the embarrassment. She focused on finding solutions. She was looking for ideas and talked through a list of options that might help her reign in the leakage, including a call to her surgeon to find out why it was happening, and what recommendations he could offer. This resilient way of focusing is why Carol’s been so successful in her career, with her family, and in her pursuit of managing LBL.
Tip 2: Replace words like “always” and “never” that imply that challenges are permanent, with words like “today” or “this time” that frame a challenge as temporary. You've heard your girlfriends say it. Maybe you've even said it yourself. I know I have. “I’m ALWAYS so clumsy,” “I’m NEVER on time,” “I’ll NEVER get it right.” You may even have thought, “I ALWAYS leak at the worst possible times.” If there was even one time in your life when you weren't clumsy, late, or forgetful, then the always/never statement isn't true, and only makes you feel worse about yourself. When you catch yourself in always/never thinking, erase the phrase and start over again. Switch from seeing problems as permanent to temporary, and you’ll raise your resilience. Instead of “I’m ALWAYS going to be embarrassed about leaking,” Say, “I was embarrassed TODAY.” Instead of “I’ll NEVER find a solution,” say, “I haven’t found a solution YET.”
Tip 3: Instead of viewing a challenge as something “bad” happening TO you, see it as something happening FOR you so that you can learn and grow in some way. It can take a butterfly up to 15 days to emerge from its chrysalis. To break free takes a great deal of struggle. Some butterflies don’t make it out alive. But if you try to remove the struggle, and help the butterfly escape its prison by opening the chrysalis for it, what happens? The butterfly dies. The struggle strengthens those beautiful wings. Take away the struggle, and you take away its strength. Eleanor Roosevelt understood how this applies to women. She said, “A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.” Imagine seeing every challenge you face as a gift that forwards your ability to be more compassionate with yourself, more understanding of others, and more resourceful in life.
How about you? What stress-reducing strategies do you use to manage LBL?