Stress levels are at record highs and, with nearly 50% of people saying that their stress levels have increased over the past five years, it’s only getting worse. While stress is driven by many outside forces such as sky high sales quotas, saturated markets, information overwhelm, and the “faster, better, cheaper” expectations of our clients, much of today’s anxiety originates from within.

While there are many ways to combat internal stress here are three kick-ass stress busters that lie inside all of you.

1. Let go of what others think of you.

Take it from someone who is evaluated every time she steps on stage or in front of a training class. Stressing over what others think of us is the most redundant source of angst because we are invariably wrong. << Tweet This

This hit home for me when I attended a workshop in 2003 where we were all asked to share an area of struggle in work or life with a partner, and listen with an open mind to our colleague’s solutions. Jane, my partner, became visibly upset when I offered what I thought to be a caring and compassionate response to her personal issue. The exercise complete, she purposefully shifted her chair leaving me to stare at her back until the end of the day, at which point she left without saying another word. Mortified that I had somehow crossed a line and offended her, I stressed all night, replaying our conversation in my mind and woke to a simple conclusion. Jane hates me.

The next morning I was refueling my brain in the local coffee shop when Jane walked by. Not in the mood for an awkward confrontation, I sank deep into the chair hoping she wouldn’t see me. But she stopped dead in front of the window, pointed accusingly at me and then burst through the door. What happened next left me speechless. I felt myself swept into an overpowering bear hug and heard her shriek, “Jill Harrington, I love you!” This from the person I was convinced wanted to see me chopped into tiny pieces. Apparently our conversation had prompted her to place a call to a sister with whom she had not spoken in a decade. She was fearful her call would be rejected due to a past rift but it turns out she was wrong. Her sister was overjoyed. And after a long tearful phone call they were a family reunited. I guess we both learned a lesson about what others think.

2. Adhere to rule # 6.

One of my all-time favourite books is “The Art of Possibility” by Zander and Zander. Chapter six introduces the ultimate stress-buster, “Rule # 6. Don’t take yourself so g__ damn seriously!”   << Tweet This  Shortly after reading the book I was speaking to an international audience of 250 people. As I crossed the stage I tripped over a cord held down by duct tape and tumbled off the side of the platform! My pride and credibility landed heavily on the floor beside me. Rule # 6 was my saviour. Instead of letting my embarrassment take the stage, I pasted a big fat grin on my beet-red face, rose from behind the podium and continued talking as if nothing unusual had happened. The audience roared. My confidence soared.

My husband helps me, albeit unintentionally, to hold onto Rule # 6. He rarely takes me seriously. When I get “my knickers in a twist” about something unimportant his reaction is a full-out belly laugh. I want, and try, to be indignant but that just fuels his mirth. Within seconds I give up my struggle for sanity and I join him. And yes we’re laughing together at me, not with me. Best feeling ever!

3. Find your personal SPF. I’m not talking about sunscreen. I’m talking about your own unique “Stress Prevention Factor.” << Tweet This

Despite my years on the professional speaking circuit I still feel the flutter of anxiety before a big gig. While I appreciate this is essential to keeping me “on my game” I want to be sure it doesn’t inhibit my performance. My SPF comprises three simple elements that keep me calm in any situation, on and off stage. Smile. Posture. Fun.

It’s impossible not to feel good when you smile. And a smile has a positive impact on everyone around you. Good posture stokes my inner confidence. When I walk tall, shoulders pulled back and head high to the ceiling, I feel powerful. I’m a total goof ball in my private life but it’s a side of me that gets sidelined at work by my ridiculous definition of professionalism. When I purposefully plan to have fun, my full personality is present, and I operate at the top of my game. These three words are printed in large type at the top of my speaking notes. SMILE. POSTURE. FUN. I rarely use the notes but I always read my SPF before I hit the stage.

What’s your personal SPF? Do you have a favourite stress-buster to share in the comments below? And if you don’t, please try one on of the above, and let me know how it fits.

Good selling!