Blog – 9 Tips to Avoid Boiling Point

by Shaun McCarthy

Stress is all around us – to not experience stress is to not live life. Deadlines, missed opportunities, contextual changes (such as the economy) that we cannot control, frustrating people, demanding customers, new competitors, supply disruptions, quality problems – all in a days’ work!

So how do you keep yourself calm and avoid boiling point when you’re in the midst of these stressful situations? As Ronald Reagan once famously said; “When you’re up to your armpits in alligators it’s hard to remember that the original objective was to drain the swamp!”

The key lies in the notion of self-care. Look after yourself. Develop strategies that are helpful to you and for you. You are your most important asset – you need to maintain that asset. Remind yourself of the old saying; “very few people on their deathbed wished that they had spent more time in the office”! Try the following 9 tips to help you to avoid boiling point.

1. Set goals around everything. Whenever you find yourself in a difficult situation, ask yourself; “what am I trying to achieve?” This will help you to not get side-tracked on issues that actually don’t matter. It will keep you focused on what you are trying to achieve and not get caught up in solving symptoms, allowing you to identify how an issue impacts on your goal and therefore how you should approach the issue.

2. Use problem-solving techniques. This is the corollary of the first one. When confronted with an issue apply the following 6 questions:

  • What’s the real problem(s) (causes not symptoms)
  • What’s my objective and how do these problems impact on my ability to achieve my goal?
  • What are the alternative ways I could go about addressing these problems?
  • How will each of these alternatives impact on the problem and help me achieve my goal?
  • Which alternative solution looks like it will work best?
  • How, when where and what am I going to do to address this issue and achieve my goal?

3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. This is the great title of a book by Richard Carlson PhD written in 1996. It’s a great expression and will help you keep a sense of perspective. Keep asking yourself; “is this really such a big issue?” Remember, whilst you can’t control what happens to you, you can control how you think about what happens to you. This is a small but essential idea – you can be in absolute control of your own thoughts. Everything is either a threat or an opportunity, depending on your own thinking about the situation. Focus on what is really important.

4. Don’t avoid. Whilst putting something off seems to create a temporary sense of relief, it usually creates bigger problems in the longer term. Confront issues as they occur.

5. Have a coach/mentor. Have someone in your life who you can talk to about things who doesn’t have a vested interest in their outcome. This might be a professional coach or it might just be a close friend. The key is someone who is not involved and does not have a stake in the outcome – that way they can be somewhat objective. Remember their role is to help you!

6. Who owns the annoyance? Sometimes people can do things that really annoy us! What can be helpful in this situation is to ask yourself this simple question: “Are they really doing this in order to annoy me, or am I getting annoyed at what this person is doing?” In other words – who owns the annoyance? If the other person is doing it to be annoying, then talk with this person about it. On the other hand, if it’s you getting annoyed by what that person is doing, then reflect on your own thinking and don’t ‘sweat it’!

7. Build strong relationships. It’s important to have someone in your life that is just very good for you. Someone who has your interests at heart. Someone who will care for you. A problem shared is a problems halved.

8. Get some fresh air. Sounds simple, but it’s very effective. If something happens at work that threatens to send you towards boiling point, take a walk. Get some fresh air. Most of us spend all day breathing in everybody else’s recycled breathing! Getting some fresh air not only takes us away from the situation, it allows our brain to receive some genuinely fresh air to help it think.

9. Remember at all times to breathe! This may sound silly, but a physical reality is that when we get stressed, we forget to breathe. The brain needs oxygen to function well. That’s why we yawn when we’re tired. When stressed, remind yourself to breathe, To breathe slowly. To breathe deeply. Feed the brain – it helps!


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