Last week we provided you with an exercise that showed you how important your mental state of being can be in helping you perform at your best (if you missed it and would like to do that exercise you can find it here). Most people who do that exercise describe their state of being when they are “at their best” as peaceful, focused, confident, calm, engaged, or something similar. When they describe their mental state of being when they are “at their worst”, the words that come up are things like agitated, anxious, frustrated, stressed, distracted, exhausted. In other words, when we are at our most stressed out, we are also showing up at our worst in the world. Other people pick up on our energy and react to it by either avoiding us or pushing back at us, making it difficult to work together. It’s also harder to make decisions, see situations objectively, and focus on important work when we are feeling stressed inside.
We tend to fool ourselves into thinking that our stress comes from the situations we experience externally and that the adrenaline we feel coursing through our veins helps us perform better. In fact, the opposite is true, which you may have noticed from monitoring your “at your best” and “at your worst” moments.
The “stress-meter” is a tool you can use to measure how effective or ineffective your inner state of being is over time. Start by picking the best word to describe your least effective inner state of mind. Some people use the phrase “stressed out.” Others might use words like “anxious,” “distracted” or “exhausted and unmotivated.” Then you measure this inner state of being in two different ways:
Question 1: What is the HIGHEST level of stress or other negative emotion you experienced today on a scale of 1 to 10 – 10 being the highest?
Question 2: What percentage of the day did you feel this emotion at a level higher than 2, on a scale of 0% to 100%?
Your stress-meter might look like this:
I used an “anxiety-meter” to measure my progress in my self-development work over time. Before I immersed myself in coaching and personal growth, I used to wake up with butterflies in my stomach – often without even knowing why! I’d feel a low level of anxiety throughout the day that spiked when situations triggered me. With that in mind, I started with my anxiety meter at 90-100% in frequency each day. On a scale of 1-10, the strength of this emotion was usually at a 4, shooting up to 10 and beyond when I was triggered.
As I worked on self-discovery, recognizing negative thinking patterns, changing limiting beliefs, and building my overall mental fitness, I moved from 90-100% anxiety during the day to less than 1% anxiety in any given month. During those infrequent times when I do experience anxiety, due to a challenging situation for example, it usually only spikes to a strength of 4 or 5 for a very short period of time and then quickly goes back down.
As I continue on my own journey, I no longer measure anxiety because I don’t feel anxious enough to measure it. Now I have a new more positive measuring tool – I am measuring how often during the day I can be completely present and peaceful.
Coaching Challenge for the Week: Make yourself a stress-meter that is unique to you. Monitor yourself each day for the next week or two to see what your baseline is.
It can be helpful to journal about your exercise results and/or save your observations in a self-development notebook. If you have any questions or would like to share your insights feel free to send me an e-mail – I’d love to hear!
In our next post in the Secrets of Mental Well-Being series, we will explore the inner sources of stress and provide four simple insights based on neuroscience and cognitive psychology that can help you better understand what is really controlling your mental wellness.