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5 Solutions To Life’s Stressful Situations

5 Solutions To Life's Most Stressful Situations

By Anna Redman

You’ve been called on stage for a big presentation and, even though you have cue cards and feel ridiculously prepared, your mind immediately goes blank. Now what?

“There are things you can do in the moment to manage your fear, and there are long-term things you can do to improve how you cope, and sometimes they’re the opposite of one another,” explains Dr. Martin Antony, professor in psychology at Ryerson University and author of The Anti-Anxiety Workbook.

In a short-term situation such as this one, Antony recommends focusing on inhaling and exhaling. “Slow breathing can help in the moment,” he notes. He also proposes shifting your thinking. “If someone is giving a presentation and they’re afraid that everyone will think they’re an idiot, for example, rather than accepting that as a fact, we want people to treat their thoughts as guesses and look for the evidence supporting that idea, as well as evidence that disconfirms it.” Ask yourself, have you ever had the fear-inducing feedback you’re anticipating during, or after, any of your past presentations? Probably not.

After you’ve made it through the presentation at hand, with a few deep breaths and some refreshed thinking, Antony advises some long-term strategies to make you less flustered in the future. “When it comes to public speaking, the more you do it, the easier it gets, so practise giving presentations,” Antony encourages. Opt for a structured, predictable environment, and you’ll gain the rehearsal you need, without the anxiety. “Generally, we know that if exposure is done in an unpredictable way, it can worsen the fear,” Antony reveals. “On the other hand, if people know what to expect, they have control — they decide when exposure will occur and know they can stop it at any point. That’s far more effective.”

You’ve been stuck in the same position for the last two years, and even though you’ve been busting your butt, you haven’t seen a title change or a salary increase. What’s a guy to do? 

“Let your boss know that you would like to move up,” advises Katie Bennett, executive leadership coach at Double Black Diamond Coaching. It’s important to let your superiors know — after all, not everyone wants to be promoted.

“Be sure to have career development discussions with your leader so they know what you hope to do with your career, and so you can map out a plan to get to where you want to be,” Bennett suggests. “Then ask what you need to do to get there.”

Though people can be overlooked through no fault of their own, a lack of promotion is more commonly linked to a skill or experience gap. Bennett advises establishing a realistic advancement timeline with your boss, based on filling in any experience gaps you’ve discussed, as well as setting up regular progress meetings, to ensure you’re hitting your targets.

All that being said, it’s important not to get ahead of yourself. “Never ask for a promotion you don’t deserve yet,” Bennett warns. Promotions are not normally directly correlated with the time you’ve worked for the company, but are a result of taking initiative, going above and beyond, and making a positive difference. In other words, they should be earned, not expected. And even if the company isn’t overly forthcoming with title changes, they might be willing to bolster your bank account to compensate you for your A-plus efforts.

“The bottom line,” Bennett concludes, “is that you should take a leadership role in managing your own career. Getting a promotion or a raise is not something you just decide to ask for one day. It’s a goal with a distinct process, and that has to be achieved over time.”

You and your partner are looking to buy a house, but at the end of every month, when you look at your bank statement, there’s hardly anything left over for savings, let alone a mortgage payment. How can you get that dollar amount moving in the right direction?

“You can take some tried-and-true principles of fitness and apply them to your fiscal fitness too,” explains Preet Banerjee, a consultant to the financial services industry, “and the best part is that you can build your financial muscles without much pain.”

When it comes to balancing your bank account, slow and steady wins the race. “Many people have income taxes withheld on their pay cheques,” notes Banerjee. Over the course of a year, you might pay $20,000 in taxes, but you probably couldn’t come up with that $20,000 balance at the end of the year if you hadn’t paid it in small, manageable increments. “It would be like trying to put on 10 pounds of muscle in one day,” Banerjee continues. “It just wouldn’t work. The only reason so many of us are able to pay the amount of income tax we do is precisely because it’s taken out, bit by bit, on a regular basis.”

So if you’re looking to save up for a large expense, like a house, a car, or even a vacation, deducting a regular and realistic amount from your pay cheque as soon as you receive it could be the way to go. “Set up an automatic transfer from your chequing account to a savings account that occurs on the day you get paid,” Banerjee advises. The initial setup may be hard, he warns, “so imagine signing up for a gym and watching your muscles grow, without having to exert any effort. That’s what will happen with your savings account.” Banerjee promises that it won’t take long for you to get used to your new “income,” and notes that the advantages are definitely worthwhile.

You’re in a fight with your significant other over (what else?) finances. She clams up when you ask what’s the matter and says everything’s okay. Now what?

“Many couples are afraid of conflict,” shares Reta Walker, a psychotherapist based in Oakville, Ontario, and financial conversations can be exceptionally sticky and problematic. Whether it’s saving or spending, if you don’t agree on how to do it you’ll likely withdraw from discussions. “Neglecting to ask (or answer) questions to discover what your partner needs and wants prevents you from providing respect and empathy for each other and creating a solution that will work well for both of you,” Walker shares.

“When you invest in listening to each other, you discover the other person’s needs and form emotional bonds that result in deep and satisfying intimacy,” she continues. Really paying attention to what your partner is saying will strengthen your communication and your relationship, but in order for that to happen you have to be willing to open up to your partner and share your true worries, as well as the things that are working between you.

So how can you jumpstart this problem solving? “A couple’s issues can be solved and more easily managed when they first arise,” Walker reveals. “Begin by listening sincerely to your partner, then try different solutions until you have an acceptable outcome.” To prevent things from getting too heated or emotional, Walker suggests limiting conversations to a single topic and trying to resolve the issue within 20 minutes. “If you haven’t solved the problem within an acceptable amount of time, agree to consider the matter independently and return to the conversation later.” And, most importantly, when thoughts like “You don’t listen to me” pop into your head, change your thinking by asking your partner to tell you more about themselves, which will help you understand each other better and find your solution that much faster.

You’ve just arrived at your hotel on the day of your buddy’s wedding, and when you open your suitcase you find that your suit has wrinkled and you’ve got a stain on your shirtsleeve. How can you get wedding-ready before the ceremony?

Assuming a super-speedy dry clean is completely out of the question, there are a few quick fixes you can turn to. “If your shirt has a stain, it’s best to treat it with club soda right away,” shares Rikky Khanna, president and creative director for Toronto-based Spier & Mackay. The carbonation in this popular fizzy beverage will help to lift the unwanted mark. “It’s important to dab at the stain and not to wipe at it,” Khanna warns. “Wiping will just drive the stain deeper into the cloth, making it more difficult to remove later.” Should your splotch mark crop up later in the evening (after a couple of drinks, perhaps) when club soda may not be so readily available, warm water is the next best option, according to Khanna.

A Tide to Go Instant Stain Remover is also a great backup. “It acts similarly, in that it helps prevent the stain from actually setting into the cloth,” explains Khanna, who suggests keeping one in the glove compartment in your car. Just be cautious when using it on white- or cream-coloured items, as the cleaning solution in these transportable pens can give the soiled area a lasting, yellowish tinge.

With your streaks and smudges taken care of, that just leaves those pesky wrinkles. “If a steamer isn’t handy, the age-old trick of hanging the suit in a steamy bathroom works well,” Khanna notes. “The moisture will be absorbed by the fibres and expand, popping the suit back into shape.” He does admit that this method is not quite as effective as a good steam, but it can definitely bail you out when you’re in a pinch.

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