It's In Your Focus

Two Strategies to Use Now

New studies continue to come out with findings that show the specific effects stress has on our physical health: increasing the risk of heart attack, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. There's some encouraging news, too, however, which suggests that health outcomes can be significantly improved by altering the way we deal with stress

Since April is National Stress Awareness Month, I thought I'd use today's issue to remind you of two strategies you can incorporate to reduce the effects of stress. Both utilize the power of focus. One is a planning routine I call Short & Mighty and the other is an in-the-moment meditation practice that you can do almost anywhere.

Short & Mighty

This planning routine trains you to sharpen the skill of selecting your focus. First, look out to the next several weeks. I usually do this in 90-day increments (by season or business quarter), and since we're about a month into Spring, for our purposes, let's think about the next 60 days:

  1. Make a list of things you need and want to accomplish by the end of Spring. I like to keep two lists, one for work and one for personal projects.
  2. Move items that can wait for Summer to a separate list, which we'll call your Reserve. That way, you won't lose those ideas or action items; you're just moving them out of view. Be realistic with what is possible, and move the rest to the Reserve. What remains is your Current Focus.
  3. Now identify the top 3-5 items to work on first. This is your Short & Mighty List, which might include a combination of: mini projects, areas of focus, or even singular actions.

Getting things out of your head and onto paper will give you an increased sense of control. Then, by distilling any monster to-do lists down to something shorter, you're making it easier to focus and take action, while also leaving room for those things that just come up and can't be planned. This is a combination of proactively moving things forward, being realistic, and remaining flexible.

It's In Your Hands

photo of a stone in palm of handNow for an easy meditation you can do almost anywhere and with eyes open. It requires no training, and all you need to be able to do is count to ten. It's the OASIS in the Overwhelm strategy called 1-Stone: Place a stone or any object of comfort in the palm of your hand. With your eyes open, take ten easy breaths, in and out, as you look at the stone. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the stone and your breath.

This simple technique is a way to rebalance even if your surroundings are noisy or chaotic. My friend Millie Grenough first learned it from the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh who carried a stone in his pocket as a way to find calm, even on the village streets in wartime Vietnam. Carrying a stone with you or having one on your desk will remind you that finding your calm is in the palm of your hand. You can also do a variation of 1-Stone that I'll name 1-Sky and, you guessed it, all you have to do is look up at the sky as you take ten relaxing breaths.

This Week's Call To Action:
Let the planning routine and the meditation techniques above remind you that managing stress sometimes means broadening your perspective and sometimes means narrowing it. Practice both this week:

  • Broaden Your Perspective: Look out to 90 days. Look up to the sky.
  • Narrow Your Focus: Look down at what's right in front of you. Make your Short & Mighty list. Do the work at hand. Practice 1-Stone.

Your calm. Your effectiveness.
It's in your focus. It's in your hands.

Here's to you,
Ginny Kravitz's signature

¹Take a look at some of these recent findings in stress research. Here are two items I found interesting and extracted from the source articles cited below them:

"Feeling anxious and stressed is linked with a 27 percent higher risk of heart attack -- the same effect smoking five cigarettes a day has on the heart, the New York Daily News reported."

"Researchers at the University of Miami found that undergoing a Cognitive-Behavioral Stress Management program seemed to have a positive effect on breast cancer patients' immune system cells... The results suggest that the stress management intervention mitigates the influence of the stress of cancer treatment and promotes recovery over the first year."

Huffington Post: Stress Health Effects: 10 Scary Things It's Doing To Your Body
(accessed April 7, 2013)

Huffington Post: Stress Research: 10 New Things We Learned This Year, For National Stress Awareness Month
(accessed April 7, 2013)

University of Miami, Press Release: Stress Management Improves Breast Cancer Outcomes
(accessed April 7, 2013)