3 Ways You Can Handle High-Stress Problems Without Killing Yourself
I felt like I was going to die. Like an atomic bomb bursting in my chest.
It was an early weekday morning when I got the email.
“Your Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) caught on fire in flight, and you’ll pay for the damages.”
Our client had to divert passengers, there $350,000 APU was now as useless as burnt toast, and I was expected to pay for everything.
After debating if I should return to bed, pull the sheets over my head and sleep for the next 80 years, I decided to put on my man pants.
In life, especially in business, you’re going to be presented with serious decisions. Huge problems. And the bigger you get, the more significant your problems will be.
A big problem for you might be a $1,000 issue. For others, a $10,000,000.
No matter where you’re at in your career, your business, or your life, accepting and resolving problems is a skill you must master.
Disclaimer: you’ll always be learning this.
Here’s what I did in this particular predicament…
First, I made sure everyone was okay. No money, no amount of stress, nothing is as vital as an innocent life. NOTHING.
Everyone was fine. Phew.
Seriously! Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.
Three, I went to my whiteboard (at this time I did it on paper.) I needed to game plan the situation and the various ways we would overcome it.
With these simple steps, you’ll be able to push aside any problem or high-stress situation…
95% Of All Problems Have A Viable Solution
That’s a Nate statistic, but I can’t be far off. As I reflect on my life, it’s very accurate for me.
Almost everything has a solution.
The question is, are you mentally strong enough and capable of seeing the forest through the fire.
Most are not.
Their heartbeat races.
They get stiff and do nothing.
Doing nothing will never solve a problem.
I like to tell myself…
Tell yourself, “Don’t Be A B!#$%.”
I was on top of the mountain. I’ve never skied before.
I had an advantage. I grew up on the ocean and did plenty of water skiing. I also paddle board, and I’m coordinated.
Plus one for me.
Every time I looked up the mountain, I froze. Don’t be an idiot Nate. You’re going to look like a fool I told myself.
I knew I wasn’t going to die. My life wasn’t in danger.
So what was it?
It was my head. My thoughts.
So, I told myself, don’t be a B!#$%.
Yes, you may read this and think this is harsh, but it’s a jolt to my system.
I do this in many situations.
Whether it’s speaking, making a sales call, skiing for the first time, resolving a huge problem, if I feel uncomfortable, I tell myself these four words.
It helps redirect my mind every time.
When you encounter a problem and begin to freeze and panic, tell yourself “don’t be a B!#$%” and move on to the next step.
Take a few deep breaths
Meditation changed my life. It helped me quiet my mind.
You don’t need to meditate, but in a high-stress situation, you need to calm down.
You need to ground yourself. You need to be focused. Mentally clear.
This is the only way you’ll act rationally. The only way you’ll leverage your bets on making the right decision.
When you hit a high-stress situation, take a deep breath.
A deep, slow ten-second breath in through your nose.
A slow ten-second exhale through your mouth. Keep your mouth wide open. Relax your jaw.
Stare at a non-moving object. Fix your eyes on it and gaze.
Do this five to ten times, and you’ll be on your way to…
Create a resolution plan for your problem
It amazes me how many people panic when faced with a high stressed problem. I get it, but it doesn’t solve anything.
What you need to do is sit your ass in front of a whiteboard or piece of paper and start working on your solution. Preferably with a team if you have one.
Stay calm. Be focused.
A great tool I use is the six thinking hats. I use them religiously.
White hat: What data do you have right now? What is the problem?
Red hat: What are your emotions about this?
Black hat: What are the negative outcomes?
Yellow hat: What are the possible benefits of this problem?
Green hat: What are the possible solutions?
Blue hat: Control the process through the various hats.
I find these incredibly helpful when dealing with a high-stress problem. It gives you a framework to work from.
But it’s what you do in the green hat phase that will make all the difference…
Get your hands dirty and start solving the problem
Sure you can list a ton of solutions but if you’re like most, you’ll stare at the list, feeling even more overwhelmed.
Where do you start?
To start, list out what your problem is again. In big bold words…
“OUR APU STARTED ON FIRE AND THE CLIENT IS DEMANDING SIX FIGURE COMPENSATION”
Then begin listing out all of the possible solutions, both big and small.
Come up with 20 ideas.
Discuss them. Debate them. Finalize your list.
Start with idea number one and ask yourself, is this a low hanging fruit?
Meaning, is it something relatively easy to do? If so, mark it with LH (Low Hanging).
Do this all the way down your idea list.
Next, go back up to idea number one again and ask yourself, is this a home run? Will this undoubtedly solve your problem? If so, mark it with an HR (Home Run).
Do this all the way down your idea list.
Review your list and start assigning the ideas that have both a Home Run (HR) and a Low Hanging (LH) initial next to them.
These are your starting points.
Their relatively easy to do and you’ve identified they’ll push back your problem.
There you have it, your course of action is mapped out.
Now resolve your problem with this action list. Assign them. Add deadlines and get to work.
We are all face with problems.
Don’t let them shut you down. Don’t freeze. Make progress. Be bold. Be a decision maker.
Be safe. Be humble. Be you,