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Life’s a Game
How Not to Dwell on the Future
o say I have a stressful life would be putting it mildly, especially during the COVID-19 global pandemic. I’m a personal injury attorney who has clients counting onme, and I runmy own firmwhere
“My first approach to dealing with stress is to not dwell on the future. That’s where stress lives.”
employees rely onme for their livelihoods. Then at home, my wife and I are raising two kids, a 13-year-old with severe disabilities and an 8-year-old. At this point, stress is my best friend. But to be fair, I think a lot of Americans feel
If I need to accomplish a huge task by a certain time, I don’t focus on the whole task and the looming deadline— that’s overwhelming. Instead, I start by breaking everything down into smaller chunks and looking at what I can do today
this way. A 2019 Gallup poll found that 55% of Americans report feeling stressed every day. That’s 20% higher than the global average! No wonder April is Stress Awareness Month.
tomake progress toward completing the bigger task. Then I take on another small task the next day. By breaking the project into smaller tasks, the whole thing gets completed by the deadline with far less stress. Not every stressful task can be broken down into bite-sized chunks. Sometimes, something particularly stressful flips your whole life around. When this happens, I remember a piece of advice someone gave me years ago: Life’s a game and sometimes the rules change. There are some people who
Based on the Gallup poll, I don’t think anyone needs to be made aware of stress. Instead, let’s use April to think about howwe can better manage stress. I think it’s good to have a physical outlet tomanage your stress. Personally, I love to golf. It’s a calming activity that puts my mind on something else for a while, instead of dwelling on whatever has been stressingme out. I also know a lot of people whomeditate, run, read, or lift weights when they’re feeling stressed. There are a lot of ways tomanage stress, even beyond physical activity. A lot of my biggest stress management strategies involve changingmy mental approach to whatever is stressingme out. My first approach to dealing with stress is to not dwell on the future. That’s where stress lives. We certainly have to think about and plan for the future, but if you’re always worried about the big tasks looming in your future, you will inevitably feel stressed. Instead, I follow the old saying,“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”Basically, I schedule my stuff.
experience a life-altering event and all they can do is feel sorry about themselves or long for how life could have been. That’s where their stress and depression comes from. They aren’t playing the game anymore. Instead, they’re just worried about how the rules have changed. In order to get
past this, you have to learn how to play by the new rules.
Whenmy son Nathan was diagnosed with autism, it flippedmy whole life around. Raising a child with autism comes with a lot of stress. I could have gotten hung up and wished for the life I’d imagined, but that wouldn’t have been good for me or my family. Instead, I remembered that life is still a game, only now I’mplaying by the new rules of being the father of an autistic son. The rules are different than what I expected, but I can still win and enjoy a good life withmy family.
Stress is largely a mental challenge. When we change our mindset, we usually find that what was stressing us out isn’t as huge as we first thought. And when shifting our mindset doesn’t help?Well, there’s always meditation and a game of golf. -Marc L. Shapiro
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