Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Time Management Tuesday: Stress Mindsets And Getting Started On Changing Them

Getting Back Up To Speed

It's been a while since I've addressed time management and stress mindsets so let's make sure I've covered enough so we can go forth.

This summer I'm reading The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal and trying to relate managing stress to managing time, particularly for writers. Procrastination is a particular problem for writers and stress is very much related to that. Remember, in Upside of Stress McGonigal says that people who see stress as harmful are likely to "try to distract themselves from the cause of the stress instead of dealing with it" and "focus on getting rid of their feelings of stress instead of taking steps to address its source." We distract ourselves with procrastinating. We focus on getting rid of our feelings of stress with procrastination. McGonigal also says that "The desire to avoid feeling anxious overtakes other goals." Getting rid of the stress of working toward finishing a draft overtakes the goal of finishing the draft.

Another of our old friends, Timothy Pychl, author of The Procrastinator's Digest, says something similar about procrastination. Procrastinators procrastinate because they're giving in to the need to feel good immediately. Revising this chapter is so much harder than I thought it would be. I am miserable. A Facebook break would make me feel better. Might even make me feel good. I would love to feel good.

You can see why jobs get dragged out forever and ever. At least, I can see why mine do.

Fight Or Flight...The Most Famous Stress Mindset

It's a rare reader of popular science articles who hasn't heard of the fight-or-flight response. The story goes that while we were evolving, the early humans who were good at deciding whether they should flee or fight wild beasts, natural disasters, or other humans were the ones who survived and whose good little fight-or-flight genes got into the gene pool. Nowadays those same genes have a lot less animal/disaster/other humans to trigger them, so turn their attention to things like public speaking, flying, what's happening with our kids, and work.

For many of us, fight-or-flight is our default stress mindset.

But There Are Other Ways To Experience Stress

In The Upside of Stress, McGonigal argues that there are other, more positive stress mindsets we could be using and even taking advantage of when dealing with stress. So far in my reading I've come upon mindsets involving:
  • Challenge
  • Tend and Befriend
  • Values
But where do they come from? If fight-or-flight is some kind of inborn response that we may not even think about, what are these other mindsets? Where do they come from and how do I get one?

Mindset Interventions

My reading suggests that some of these mindsets may be natural for some people and not others. But according to McGonigal, we can all switch to  more positive mindsets by either taking part in a formal intervention or making our own. She describes a number of research projects in which this is done and offers ideas for making our own interventions.

And that will be coming up.

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