Stress Management and Mastery: Watch Your Language


"Watch your language."

We all heard this admonition as kids and probably say it to our own kids as well.

Did you know that it is also a great stress mastering technique?

The words we use to make sense of both our day and the stress that confronts us make a huge difference in how well we handle our lives. Many times the words we use can make us feel even more stressed.

The funny thing is, it's usually just a very small distinction that can make all the difference. One of the best examples is what I call the "got to vs. get to" difference.

Saying "I've got to" is so prevalent in our language that most of us don't realize just how much and how often we say it.

Pay attention to how often you think and say, "got to." You'll notice that it makes you feel tighter, heavier and more rushed. Actual physiological responses in your body take place as your muscles tighten and your breathing becomes shallower.

Activities and tasks that are simply a part of life, or perhaps even a privilege, then become burdens to be carried and gotten through.

Instead of enjoying the day and the blessings that come with it, we focus on just getting through. Doesn't sound very compelling does it? Yet we do it all the time, every day.

Here's what I suggest you do. Over the next few days, watch your language. Pay attention to your language. Notice how often you think or say, "got to." I'm willing to bet you'll be surprised, and you'll begin to understand a part of why you feel so stressed.

Now that you're aware of how much you say "got to" and how much it effects you, here's what you can do about it.

Remember earlier I pointed out it was just a small distinction between "got to" and "get to"? Well, the distinction is small, but the difference is huge. You can look upon the same day, with the same tasks in it, and take a "get to" approach. You'll notice that you will feel lighter, less stressed, more motivated and more blessed.

Here's a recent example from my life. On a recent Thursday afternoon, I found myself in the middle of a "got to" binge. It was past the time I prefer to send in this column. We just got the news that my wife would require more surgery following her recent pregnancy. And I had a full load of clients to see that afternoon.

Here is one more suggestion - imagine what it would have been like to lay in bed this morning, thinking about all the "got to's" that were coming in your day. What does that feel like? Now, imagine the same scene, but focusing on all the many things that you "get to" do that day. Notice how different you feel? Which one do you like better?

It takes some practice, and with practice you can learn to avoid the "got to's" and focus on the "get to's" in your life. A small distinction, yes. And a huge difference.

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