Last week my students were having a difficult time listening to me, and many were acting out. Their behavior was making me feel as if my classroom management skills had an expiration date and my behavior modification abilities had grown moldy spores somewhere around the turn of the millennium.Secondly, various school meetings had left several of my colleagues at odds with each other and many people’s feelings had been hurt (including my own).

Finally, my schedule at home was filled with enough duties and obligations to have exhausted a head of state, so sleep and/or rest had come at a premium for a very long time.

It short, it was a tough week.

At one point, to blow off some steam, I sent a desperate, ranting text to someone close to me, and that person responded with three rapid fire responses:

You got this.

Reduce your stressors one at a time.

Don’t add to your list.

My first thought was, “Do you even read this blog, bruh?”

My second thought was the sharp sting of embarrassment that I wasn’t even listening to my own message.

And my third thought was, “Of course. Those three texts are really the whole enchilada, aren’t they?”

Not only is there great general wisdom in those three, short bursts of insight, but I knew that if I listened to them, I would very likely find the solution I was looking for.

Let me show you what I mean:

You got this.  This is all about changing the internal tape loop in our heads. The messages my mind was telling me was “Things are out of control. I am drowning. It’s not working. I can’t make it stop.” But as soon as I saw this text, I knew that changing the tape loop was up to me.  I needed to change the message in my mind to, “I’m the one in control. I can make changes. I can figure this out.”

I needed to remind myself that “I got this.”

Reduce your stressors one at a time.  I’ve harped for years in this space about the benefits of subtraction. I’ve bent your ear about removing things from your life, your room, and your calendar in order to breathe a little more easily. And apparently this was a case of needing a taste of my own medicine.

So I followed my own advice. I gave notice to a private tutoring client who was taking up a great deal of time energy and resources, but for very little compensation. I also went into work the next day and identified the student who was creating the greatest disturbance in one of my classes and politely asked him to cool his jets on the bench outside. Magically, the hour was much more pleasant and we got more done.

Physician, heal thyself.

Don’t add to your list.   Simply put, this is about The Power of No. It’s about declining offers out of a sense of obligation or duty, so that you can maintain reasonable personal boundaries and a sense of balance in your life, effectively avoiding the dual specters of stress and burnout.  When you’re overwhelmed, don’t compound things by taking even more on. You will never be glad that you did.

For my own part, I was asked to advise a club last week and I said no, because I was already advising another club. I was asked to be in the faculty lip synch show, and I said no because I’d already written some dialogue for the event. So it’s not about not doing ANYTHING. Once again, it’s about keeping reasonable boundaries and margins in place to respect your own needs. Derek Sivers, former owner of CD Baby and generally super wealthy guy says, “If you can’t say ‘Hell, Yeah!’, say no.” And he seems to be doing all right.

Changing the tape loop in your head from the negative to the positive, reducing your stressors one at a time, and holding fast to boundaries that keep your list manageable are three great reminders to keep the stress and anxiety wolf at bay.

So now that we’re about to face a new week that will have its own new challenges, I can look back and say that I’m very grateful for those texts.*  
They taught me that I do have the solution, after all.

And the solution is me. TZT

*And for the person who sent them.