As a corporate comedian and funny motivational speaker, my keynote presentation “Crack or Crack Up” emphasizes using humor as a tool to deal with stress. But let’s get real…there are some situations that are just too stressful to laugh through, at least in the moment. I have found this is all-too often the situation in parenting. In fact, the following stress-relieving strategy was born out of my wife’s and my experiences in those insane instances. These strategies have saved our family many times and can also be applied to the workplace. The strategy is called SIT, which stands for Step Away, Imagine Worse, and Tell Someone. Here is a closer look at this concept…
S – Step Away.
Sometimes you just need to get the heck out of Dodge. When tension builds and tempers are flaring, step away before you do something you regret. In parenting, this tension could be holding a crying infant for an extended period of time. Your sanity starts to go. You forget how much you love this poor, innocent little butthead. Simply handing the baby off and stepping away into a different room for a while does wonders. There are too many tragic stories of parents who have failed to step away and then did something drastic and irreversible.
What is your “crying baby?” Is it a smart-aleck boss or co-worker? Is it technology-related or a simple matter of work overload? Whatever it is, step away. There are many ways to step away. You could leave the room, go to the bathroom, take a coffee break, walk around the building or take a lunch out. Sometimes you can’t physically step away in a work-related situation. Sometimes you can just mentally step away. Close your eyes, breathe, and momentarily go to a happy place.
Maybe you need to step away for longer. Is a vacation is long overdue? Maybe it’s as simple as a weekend of engaging in a hobby like fishing, frisbee golf or binge watching The Office on Netflix. Get lost in something you love. Or maybe it’s time for a lifestyle overhaul. This doesn’t have to mean looking for a new job — but it might moving or just taking a break from a volunteer commitment for a short season. These are just ideas to get you started in a “step-away” mindset.
Stepping away varies from person to person and from one situation to another. It can be big scale or small scale, short-term or long-term. You know who you are, your needs and what cools you off and recharges your batteries, but remember to step away.
I – Imagine Worse.
Often times when I have a keynote speaking gig out of town, I take my wife and five kids with me. I know, I’m just asking for it. Sometimes when we’re rolling into the city where I’m performing, the kids have been cooped up in the minivan for half a day and are dog-tired. This is when they’re on their best behavior. Best bad behavior, that is. At this point they’re throwing punches, choice names and unopened cans of LaCroix at each other (Melon Grapefruit, in case you’re wondering. These kids aren’t messing around.). And there’s no taming them at this point, I don’t care if I’m The Supernanny herself. And I’m not.
It’s times like these when I imagine worse. I’m not going to even say what dark situations my mind plays out sometimes, but basically what I’m doing is imagining some of my worst nightmares as a parent. And it works! When I think about the tragedies that might befall my beautiful children, it makes me thankful for this “unbearable” situation I might be facing in the moment. This method may sound a little psycho to you, but I assure you, it is a healthy, effective way to be thankful for your situation and count your blessings in the heat of the moment.
What are the daily “family road trip in the minivan” situations for you? Maybe imaging yourself out of work is the best way to cope with difficult situations in your work. Or perhaps if you lock your keys in your Prius, you imagine having a Ford Focus instead. Anyway, I hope you get it. Keep in mind, the bigger the stress, the more outlandish and awful of a scenario you have to mentally create. If you feel somewhat like a psycho, you’re off to a great start in practicing the art of imagining worse.
T – Tell Someone.
“Lean on Me” is one of my favorite songs of all time (the Club Nouveau version, of course). Along with that sweet 1986 pop beat, it has a great message of bearing each others’ burdens. This life is too hard to go at it alone. We need people. Often times as a parent when I step away from my strong-willed child who refuses to do her math homework, the thing that helps me recover from parenting trauma the fastest is telling someone about the situation.
When we talk to others about our stress, almost magical things happen. It brings healing. Sometimes just venting to a safe person we trust is all it takes. An attentive, listening, caring ear works wonders. Sometimes this someone can relate and they share their story and now it’s a shared experience. Other times the person has insight, wisdom, or can offer resources such as a book, podcast, or YouTube video to help with our situation. Talking about our problems somehow gives us perspective and minimizes our problems.
So who is your “Lean On Me” go-to? Maybe it’s your mom, dad, co-worker, boss, sibling, BFF, dog, diary, professional counselor or maybe the Big Man upstairs. Wait, back up…did he say diary? Thanks Doogie Howser (sorry if you don’t know who that is). Listen, writing down my worries and fears on paper has proven to be one of the most tried and true methods over the years for keeping my sanity and gaining a healthy perspective on my problems. Having a visual of my problems all in one place on a piece of paper helps lift my mental fog. Needless to say, the bigger a safe, reliable, trustworthy network of close people in your life, the more likely you’ll find someone available when you need to unload. But whoever it is or whatever it is, tell someone.
Well there you go. As you begin to practice this you’ll find that some situations call for more than one or even all three of the techniques above. So next time you’re about to blow your top…pause, take a deep breath, and SIT.