Stress Management: 5 Questions to Get Crisis to Work for You


Q: Someone told me that the Chinese symbol for crisis means danger and opportunity. I just lost my job, and I see nothing but bad stuff in this. Where is the opportunity?

A: When you are hit with a life crisis such as losing a job, it's easy to focus on only the dangers and bad things.

Here are five questions to ask yourself when life hands you something you don't want or like. They are designed to get you through the crisis and to help you manage your thoughts and emotions as well.

1. In how many ways can I make this work for me?

The language of this question is important because it contains what is called a presupposition. I think that the first people to really understand the human brain and emotions were not psychologists, but those in advertising and sales.

For example, when you are shopping for a new car a good salesperson will ask "Do you want to buy the red car or the blue car?" The presupposition is that you will buy one of them.

Our question presupposes that there is a way to make this work for you, and it also assumes there are several ways to do this. It may take a great deal of creativity, but creativity is simply the ability to look at something that has always been there and see something that has not been seen before.

2. What's good about this? What does this allow me to do that I might not have done before?

One of the many results of losing a job is you suddenly have a lot of time on your hands. While this can be scary, it also can work to your advantage. Are there projects around the house you can now complete? Are there members of your family with whom you can spend more time?

One of the best uses of this time can be to step back and consider what it is you really want to do in life. If you have been doing something that is not your passion, losing your job could be your ticket to living and working out your passion.

3. What would you love to do?

If there is not a job like that around, how could you create one in a way that would add value to the lives of others? The happiest people I know are those who are doing what they love for a living.

4. What does this force me to do that I might not have done before?

When our backs are up against the wall, we sometimes have to face issues we have been avoiding. Do you need to improve your job skills? Go back to school? Sometimes being out of work can expose financial areas of your life that have not been taken care of. Once you are working again, do you need to get out of debt, take care of retirement, or something else?

5. How many ways can I make this work for me?

I know I asked that question once already. But questions 2 through 4 prepare you to better answer the question the second time around. See what other useful answers you can come up with at this point.

It comes down to a sometimes difficult choice: Am I going to focus on all the ugliness of what has happened, or am I going to focus on how to come out of this better, stronger and wiser than when I went in?

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