How to Keep From Being Shut Down by Stress

5 ways to turn negative energy into positive results.

It seems like it never changes.

There’s always way more things that need to be done than we have time to do. Ask any successful person how they’re doing, and they’ll say, “I’m great, but I am busy—it’s been a crazy week.”

There are always a lot of meetings, phone calls, wrapping up projects, starting new projects. It is nonstop.

That’s normal. But what has been coming up this week is the word stress.

I’ve been talking to businesspeople and college students, even high school and junior high students, and everyone is overwhelmed with stress.

Unfortunately, when stress builds up, it paralyzes you. You start worrying more about the stress than about getting things done. When it starts to slow you down, you become vulnerable. While you should be accelerating and continuing to move forward, you end up slowing down and getting further and further behind. This is not good!

You need to be very clear about this. Slowing down is not going to help most of the time. Now it’s great to get an extra night’s sleep from time to time.

In fact, I just got back from a 10-day multi-city trip where some nights I only got 45 minutes of sleep. In fact, I only got 45 minutes of sleep the night before launching out into this trip, and I never got a chance to catch up—and this was a normal trip. This wasn’t a crisis.

I met a lot of fun people, did a lot of fun things, went to a lot of fun places, but it was jam-packed. So when I came in and I got to be alone, I would be way behind on text messages and emails. By the time I got through with those and maybe the occasional last-minute phone call or two, it was 1 or 2 in the morning again with a 6, 7, or 8 AM kick-off the “next” morning.

It was relentless, but it was not a chore. It was fun, it was enjoyable, and it was highly productive. But when I got back home last night and finally got to sleep, I absolutely found I could not get out of bed until 11:30 AM. Thank goodness I didn’t have any meetings planned until the afternoon. Sometimes you need to do that—your body can only go so far.

That’s not what I’m talking about here. What I’m talking about here is mental stress—the kind that stays with you no matter how much physical rest you get . . . that gives you headaches . . . the kind that gives you worries . . . the kind that makes you wonder about your future . . . the kind that makes you wonder if you’re doing the right things with your life . . . the kind of stress that causes you to question everything.

I do find that when I’m physically worn out I’m more susceptible to this kind of stress.

Here are 5 ways I turn negative energy and stress into positive results.

1. Recover Physically

Stressed and Disorganized Woman

So the first suggestion I would make when you start to get overwhelmed is to get some food, get some rest, get a little exercise, get yourself back recovered physically. Get out, get some sunshine and some fresh air, because a lack of any of these things will just make things worse.

The solution to solving any kind of problem is to unravel it step-by-step. You don’t want to keep yourself bound up because you’re simply ignoring the most obvious solutions. So the first step is to reboot, reload, refuel, get some rest, get your perspective back, and then get back to it.

2. Get Moving Again

Do something—no matter what kind of doubts are running through your mind, no matter what kind of stresses or time demands you’re under, no matter what kind of projects you’ve got hanging over your head, you’re not going to solve them by slowing down to a stop.

Most stress comes from either being behind schedule, being out of money, or from bad relationships. None of these are going to be helped by you becoming an ostrich and sticking your head in the ground.

Every step you take forward will change your perspective. No matter how big the problem, you still have to break it down into pieces and unravel it one step at a time—just like a knot of string that’s all tangled up. All you can do is take the next step.

No matter how big the problem, you still have to break it down into pieces and unravel it one step at a time—just like a knot of string that's all tangled up. Click To Tweet

So while you’re assessing your situation, thinking about what other things to do, keep your activity going. Everything you do is one less issue you have to deal with. Every step forward is movement towards resolution.

It’s like when your house is a mess—start cleaning. It doesn’t matter where. Start with cleaning off the counter, clean off the floor, take out the trash, work your way into a deep clean. But right now, clear out the clutter.

My son, Adam, is a bodybuilder. People ask him for advice on bodybuilding all the time—give me a workout plan, what should I do when I go to the gym. After years of talking to people about this, he finally has found a simple solution.

The first step is just to go to the gym. The second step, find something and pick it up as many times as you can. Then go and pick up something else.

The main thing is just to get in the gym and start doing stuff—don’t worry about how many repetitions, how much weight, this, that, and the other. Just get in there and start moving, lifting, and sweating. And then go back the next day or two days later. Get in a pattern.

How long can you stay there? How much can you do? As much as you can. Just do something. Just get in there. Eventually, you’ll fall into a pattern and get more and more organized with it. But the first step is to get moving.

People are always looking for systems to solve problems, and I remember something my good friend Andy Young once said in a meeting, “You want a system? I’ll give you a system. Here’s what I recommend— go to work! Start there. Because until you get busy, no system is going to help you.”

3. Make Obvious Moves and Decisions

Where is the stress coming from? Is it a person? Move them out of your life. Insulate yourself. Find a way to eliminate or minimize contact with them. You do not need their presence around. You do not need to hear their voice. They are shutting you down.

Is it your job? Reassess your situation. Is this a one-time temporary stress situation, or is this how it is most of the time? If it’s creating nonstop stress for you, that’s a sign you need to be somewhere else. Because there’s only going to be so much you can put up with and a limited amount of time you can put up with the grief, so reassess.

Is it coming from a relationship? Again, is this a one-time thing or an all the time thing? Nothing is going to change by itself. You have to evaluate and think clearly and specifically about the situation you’re in and make the moves that are going to give you relief.

4. Look at Yourself

Man Thinks About Self
Make sure you are not contributing to the problem.

You cannot go around stressed to the limit all the time simply because the world does not conform to the way you think it should be. The world is imperfect. People are imperfect. The systems are imperfect.

Unfortunately, we can’t create our own world. We’ve got to make a decision. Are we going to operate in the world as it is today, or are we going to withdraw? Very few of us can withdraw, so that means you have to adapt, you have to find your accommodation.

And you cannot go through life by getting furious at everything that goes wrong, or by seeing how people respond and behave in certain situations and by getting angry at them.

Things are the way they are. People are the way they are. Things work the way they work. Deal with it—adjust. Get what you need and then stay in your lane working on your stuff.

Maybe over time, you’ll find solutions so that you can improve one aspect or another of life, but you’re not going to be able to change everything. So don’t get stressed out about everything! Grow up—let things go. Don’t expect things out of people that they’re never going to be able to do.

5. Go for Better, Not Perfect

Things can always be better. Things can always improve. Your situation can improve—your friends can improve—your schedule can improve—your skillset can improve—your wardrobe can improve—your environment can always improve in a thousand different ways.

Focus on improvement—that’s something you can always do. And the wonderful thing about improvement is that it makes you feel better, it makes you feel more hopeful, it allows you to emotionally connect with your progress.

Focus on improvement—that's something you can always do. Click To Tweet

Use Stress as a Sign

If you have stress, it’s a sign that something is out of balance. You’re not supposed to be unrealistic and think well, I’m not going to have stress. Stress is a form of pain. You are supposed to pay attention to it. But you need to be specific and analyze the best response in a way that is as unemotional as possible.

If you are responding by continuing to move forward, making improvements, and adjusting your attitude as needed, things are going to get better. And, you’re going to get stress relief that you can’t get from a pill, a drug, or a bottle.

The idea is that when you have stress, you don’t need a temporary solution—you need a permanent solution. Your central nervous system in your body is telling you that something needs to change. Things are not going right. This is not going to be productive for you in the long-term. This situation is not conducive to you winning, this situation is not conducive to you enjoying your life, and ultimately, this situation is not conducive to you fulfilling your destiny. The way things are going now need to be changed, so make changes! That’s what your central nervous system is telling you.

The more progress forward you make, the clearer you can see your way to make even better, more decisive improvements and adjustments in the future.

What you’re not going to do is become a victim. What you’re not going to do is give into stress and let yourself be overwhelmed. You know why? Because that’s what losers do, and once you start giving in and giving up, you’re on your way to making victimhood a permanent status in your life.

That’s not who you are or you wouldn’t be reading this blog. You’re someone who stands up for themselves and someone who takes action. You’re someone who is excited about their future and wants things to happen. You want to make a difference. You want to be special. That’s who you are.

And so when you feel stress, use it as a warning system to tell yourself that you need to make adjustments. Then you can make all the other positive things happen.

When you feel stress, use it as a warning system to tell yourself that you need to make adjustments. Click To Tweet

I’ll probably have more to say about this subject in a future post. Think about these first steps for now.


What are the first steps you take to handle stress? Tell me in the comments below.

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One Comment

Sheldon J. Cunningham

This was an excellent post and on time for me. I definitely get stressed from time to time and agree with every step that you laid out. The first step for handling stress that I usually take is to get into a quiet space and thank God for giving me the strength and resources to overcome the challenges in front of me. Even if I don’t know the answer to an issue right then and there, I can step away with more confidence knowing that it’s coming…and quite often the answer comes quicker than I thought!

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