Monday, November 23, 2015

Think On Your Feet: 3 Ways to Manage Holiday Stress Using An Improvisor’s Mindset

The meme of “holidays are stressful” creates a stress of its own. We become stressed at the inevitability of seasonal tension so the meme becomes fact.  One of the life-lessons I learned from my very stressful stint as an Improv group member was that applying Improv practices to real life situations helps me manage stress. Here are 3 Improv principles to help smooth the way:

1. Know the game you are playing and your role in it.

Holiday stress, like most stress in our lives, is predictable.  You know pretty much how you react to predictable stressors and you know who and where those stressors are going to appear. Plus, you know that at during a holiday season, an unexpected event will likely appear.

Improvisers understand their role is to respond to events in the moment while keeping the long range goal of the game in mind. They act on things they can control, such as their response in the moment and let go of things they cannot control, such as other peoples’ responses. They know how fruitless it is to try and control other people’s behavior.

Ask Yourself: “Am I spending energy on trying to control things I can’t control?”

2.  Don’t “should” on yourself.

“Shoulding” is a form of negative self-talk that is rarely productive. The problem with “I should (or shouldn’t) ”….. or “I should have”…. or “they should….”  is that the statement is either in the past or the future.  Staying in the present is a key stress management principle.

 Improvisers know the only time and place to act is here and now. What has happened is past, what will be is as yet undefined.

Ask Yourself: “What can I DO NOW that will help me move towards my goal.”

3  3. Differentiate between acceptance and agreement.

When we expect a certain outcome or behavior we can easily label a different result as being wrong. When we deal with what IS, rather than what we EXPECTED, we are dealing with reality and minimizing the time spent in disappointment and negative feelings. The ideal is nicely summarized in a quote by Ray Magliozzi; “Happiness Equals Reality Minus Expectations.”

Improvisers use the technique known as “Yes…And” to deal with what they are given. The model is, “YES, I accept that you feel this way, or believe this or differ from me AND I will offer my opinion, idea, or perspective.” This is very different than “Yes…But”, which says, “yes, you feel that way, BUT I feel different.” “Yes…But” is a zero-sum game. “Yes…And” allows for difference perspectives to co-exist.

Ask Yourself: “Can I respond to this difference or disagreement with an acceptance that this person feels this way or that this event has happened without needing to make them or myself wrong.”

Oh, let's add a 4th lesson from Improv- Have Fun!!

Izzy Gesell, CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) (Izzy's website) is an organizational alchemist who helps individuals and organizations transform their thinking from commonplace to extraordinary. Through his keynotes, trainings, coaching and facilitated sessions, Izzy offers imaginative, intuitive and immediately useful insights and programs. He is skilled at delivering meaningful material in a way that makes participants enjoy their time with him.  
 Izzy was one of the first to use Improv Theater concepts as tools for personal and organizational learning. He is the author of Playing Along: Group Learning Activities Borrowed From Improvisation Theater, a co-author of Cancer & the Healing Power of Play, a co-author of Humor Me: America’s Funniest Humorists on the Power of Laughter, and a contributor of a chapter on Improvisation as a facilitation tool in the IAF Group Facilitators Handbook. "His video course  on Applied Improv for Leadership" for was their first  course shot before a live audience. A second course,  is "Humor in the Workplace".  **NEW APP**- Improv4you on Google Play and Apple.

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