I read an article last week by Tim Burrowes @mumbrella. He was talking about Mumbrella360 coming up and said ‘So I have this weird superstition about the moment when things become real. It’s when I buy milk, and the expiry date is after the thing I’m stressing about… the milk-freshness boundary...’
It made me laugh, as I do the same thing! I use the Best Before dates to gauge time. Did you ever go to the fridge and realize the ‘best before’ date was after some amazing event you’ve been looking forward to for ages? All of a sudden there’s a sense of urgency and ‘realness’ about it all.
Equally though I also use this technique when I’m working with people who are in a tough situation, or have a meeting/event/presentation coming up that they’re nervous about.
Sometimes people need to be reminded that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. When you’re in a situation, you can build things up to be out of control and all consuming (especially at 4am!). Try and remember when it will be over. Finished. No matter what happens, will it all be over by the time your pint of milk runs out?
I started swearing by this technique when I flew to the UK with my 6 month old on my own and was repeating the mantra – ‘whatever happens it will be over by tomorrow’. Actually, same mantra when I went into labour! But don’t focus on the end date, look a little bit past it. So you’re not looking at the end of the stressful time, you’re already picturing how good you’ll feel when it’s done and you’re onto the next thing.
If you’ve got a massive pitch on; just think, by 3 o’clock this afternoon, whatever happens, we’ll have done it. The pitch will be over. Even if I feel sick to my stomach, or am underprepared, or just hate presenting – in only 4 hours we’ll be in the pub having the mandatory post-pitch-beer. Job done.
I was coaching a client who was having a hard time at work. Too much work, too few support staff, sick kids, sick husband – all the ingredients for a big fat case of overwhelm.
When we talked through it we realized that actually the kids were back at daycare that day, so that was dealt with. Husband was going back to work on the Monday. Big proposal was due on Friday, and her Account Managers were back from holiday on Tuesday. So actually, by Tuesday next week – everything would be back to normal. She’d be able to leave on time (for the first time in Ages), put the kids to bed and watch Game of Thrones without her laptop perched on the edge of the sofa.
All of a sudden things didn’t seem so bad and we could focus on the future rather than trying to fix the present.
Bring yourself back down to earth with something as every-day as your favourite TV show, next LiteNEasy delivery, or the best before date on a pint of milk.
Find your light at the end of the tunnel.
If there isn’t one and you’re staring down a never-ending dark tunnel, change something.
That’s not sustainable, something’s not right – address it, deal with it, and change it before it changes you.