Dan Harris, news anchor and author of 10% Happier, had an on-air meltdown in front of millions of viewers. He eventually admitted that he was using substances to deal with his anxiety.
One of his favorite lines about dealing with mental health challenges has been to “hug the dragon.” He argues that if you try to slay it, it gets stronger. But if you accept it - you hug it - it eventually gives up and goes away.
This advice has roots in Buddhist philosophy and is a part of the popular Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program popularized by John Kabat-Zinn.
The overarching goal is that of acceptance. Whatever happened, happened. You can’t change it.
Further, we have to try to stop claiming the stress as “existential” (I am angry). Instead, the goal is to treat stress as “experiential” (I am experiencing anger).
Stress is simply a physiological and psychological occurrence that will eventually dissipate and return some other day.
Fight with it and it stays to play. Accept and it goes away. Over time, hopefully the dragon gets bored.
At the end of each day, reflect on the moments where you lashed out or got short with someone. Then, pinpoint the circumstances surrounding the experience. Were you working on a specific task? Were you working with a specific person? Were you unrealistic about time or availability?
Evaluate these self-reflections and develop themes around your “stress triggers.”
Add these stress triggers to your “don’t do list” (the opposite of your to-do list) or to your goal setting documentation.
A key element of the self-leadership process is self-reflection. Our tendency is to ignore these unpleasant experiences. Instead, give them attention and do your best to prevent them from becoming a bigger issue.
I once made a serious gaffe in a formal meeting with 20+ attendees. All of them older, wiser, and more experienced.
The comment was so incredibly stupid that for the next five minutes I was the source of an outrageous amount of laughter.
That was years ago, and I can still close my eyes and go back to the moment. I’m tormented by the memory of that experience. I was sweating. I couldn’t think of anything witty or self-deprecating to smooth it over.
The reality, however, is that no one in that meeting remembers what I said (I’ve asked). To them, it was just something to laugh about. Oddly enough, I made that meeting halfway entertaining - for at least those five minutes.
We’re all human. We all say stupid things sometimes.
Stop ruminating. Move on. No one really cares. We’ve got more important things to think about.
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