How Your Defining Moments Can Help You Reduce Stress

How Your Defining Moments Can Help You Reduce Stress

By Jan Bruce

The battle to hold stress at bay is often reduced to two teams: the positives and the negatives. As in avoid negative thoughts and seek out positive ones. While we’re wired to scan for trouble, an overemphasis on the negative will take its toll. But managing stress isn’t simply a tug-of-war between good and bad. The key to coping is rising above it, seeing your life, your work, your relationships, in the context of something bigger. And if you want to keep yourself from being yanked around by stress, you need to be rooted to something: your core values.

Stress is part of everyday life — but it’s a thousand times worse if what’s expected of you is in direct opposition to what you believe, such as a working for a company that manufacturers toxic chemicals when you’re passionate about the environment, or working long hours when nothing matters to you more than family.

In order to live in accordance with your values, you have to know what they are, and be aware of where your life bumps up against them. When you can do that, your efforts become more about purpose than just productivity. That’s what builds resilience, and helps you flex and bend under the pressures of stress. (Learn more about the connection between resilience and stress.)

Lindsey LaManna, in a post on Business 2 Community, says, “When you hold true to your core values and make decisions based on them, you are better able to handle difficult situations and the stress of work… This is where the heart of work-life balance lies.”

Why Your Defining Moments Matter

So how do you do this? One way is to identify your defining moments — the times in your life that made such an impression on you that they underscored and helped define what it is you care about most.

Ryan Niemiec, Psy.D., in his post on PsychCentral, writes,

“Bringing a careful attention — or mindfulness — to the important moments in our lives can help us not only better understand ourselves, but help us realize we can take an active role and impact our life for the better.”

Maybe it was a kind word from the CEO telling you your efforts were appreciated. Or the first time you had to apologize to your child. Your defining moments don’t have to be huge, like the time you won some big award — they can be quiet ones that only in looking back now you realize were key. Niemiec recalls the end of a so-so date when, instead of ending it, he asked his date to join him for coffee, just to give it another shot, and she said yes. She later became his wife.

Niemiec says they don’t have to be positive moments — and you don’t even have to have been an active participant. Maybe it was watching an old man give up his subway seat to a pregnant woman. Or perhaps you observed an upsetting fight that taught you how never to speak to someone you love.

Identify Your Defining Moments

Niemiec’s exercise can be extremely insightful and give you a leg up on your values so that you can start living in accordance with them.

Name one moment in time that had a positive effect on you. Preferably, choose a moment in which you took action in some way. This moment doesn’t have to be dramatic, simply any moment that has had a meaningful impact on you.

List the character strengths you used (or observed) in that situation. Which character strengths did you bring forth? Be able to provide evidence for how they were expressed.

Explore how this moment has shaped who you are. How has this moment contributed to your identity? No matter how small, how has it affected your view of yourself?

Reflect on your use of courage to mobilize your strengths in that moment. Many individuals rally their bravery strength in order to take action in their defining moment. Niemiec says that this one is key because the power of bravery can mobilize other strengths.

Want to dramatically reduce your stress? Take our 28-day challenge.

Jan Bruce is CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium,, the new digital coaching system for stress, which helps both individuals and corporations achieve measurable results in stress management and wellness.

For more by meQuilibrium, click here.

For more on stress, click here.

8 Simple Pleasures You’re Forgetting To Enjoy
The stress and strain of constantly being connected can sometimes take your life — and your well-being — off course. GPS For The Soul can help you find your way back to balance.

GPS Guides are our way of showing you what has relieved others’ stress in the hopes that you will be able to identify solutions that work for you. We all have de-stressing “secret weapons” that we pull out in times of tension or anxiety, whether they be photos that relax us or make us smile, songs that bring us back to our heart, quotes or poems that create a feeling of harmony, or meditative exercises that help us find a sense of silence and calm. We encourage you to look at the GPS Guide below, visit our other GPS Guides here, and share with us your own personal tips for finding peace, balance and tranquility.

Taking only a minute to enjoy something simple could be the difference between a so-so day, and an extraordinary one. In our crazy-busy and overstimulating world it’s easy to overlook the small things we do on a regular basis that could fill the day with joy. We’ve thought of a few pieces of your routine that could become the best part of your day. Take a look and tell us what simple pleasure makes you happy.

For more GPS Guides, click here.

Why Switzerland Has Some Of The Happiest, Healthiest Citizens In The World
Switzerland is home to one of the world’s most thriving economies and also one of the happiest populations on the globe. So what’s the Swiss secret sauce? The tiny, landlocked central European country is known for investing in its people. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Human Capital Report, Switzerland invests more in the health, education and talent of its people than any other country in the world.

“Switzerland is a very small country with a small population, and it actually has very few natural resources,” Saadia Zahidi, Senior Director of the World Economic Forum, tells The Huffington Post. “The biggest resource it does have is people, and that’s what it’s been investing in for quite some time. It’s led to an economy that is competitive, highly innovative, and has adopted technology fast.”

Leveraging the skills and talents of its people is key to the future of any country or institution, and will determine how prepared a country is to face the demands of a competitive global economy, the WEF Human Capital Report explains. WEF’s comprehensive index examined 51 indicators to determine how various countries invest in their people, and how they’re leveraging those investments in terms of productivity and a robust economy.

“Countries that invest in human capital end up getting returns in terms of economic growth,” says Zahidi. “And then countries that have that economic growth are able to reinvest further in human capital. So you have this virtuous cycle that’s established.”

Human capital is a function of four pillars: health and wellness, education, work and employment, and what WEF calls an “enabling environment,” which includes factors like legal framework and infrastructure that allow for returns on human capital. Switzerland topped the index by generating high scores across the four pillars, coming in first in the health and wellness and workforce and employment categories, second for enabling environment and fourth in education — which goes a long way in explaining the success of the Swiss economy.

Here are five things Switzerland can teach the rest of the world about creating a robust economy and a healthy, happy population by investing in its people.

They have excellent health care.

When it comes to health and wellness — taking into account longevity, infant mortality, the general state of physical and mental health of the population, and quality of healthcare — the Index places the Swiss in the number-one spot. Thanks to the Santésuisse system, the Swiss have the lowest government spending on health care in the developed world — and some of the healthiest citizens.

“The Swiss have universal coverage, the healthiest population in the Western Hemisphere, and a government that spends a mere 2.7 percent of GDP on health care: about a third of what ours spends,” writes Forbes’s Avik Roy. “The Swiss system isn’t perfectly transposable onto the United States, but it is vastly superior. And the Swiss do it with a top federal income tax rate of only 11.5 percent, compared to 35 percent in the U.S. of A.”

Their people are not only healthy, but happy.

Switzerland was ranked the world’s third happiest country in the UN’s 2013 World Happiness Report, and it was also rated among the countries with the highest levels of well-being on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s Better Life Index 2013.

Switzerland has the eighth-lowest rate of depression in the world, which may have a sizeable impact on the workforce and economy. Depression is ranked as the leading cause of disability worldwide, and according to World Health Organization estimates, mental health illnesses costs developed countries 3-4 percent of annual GNP. There is one area, however, where significant improvement is needed: Switzerland came in 64th out of 122 countries in terms of stress levels.

They invest in top-notch education.

According to the OECD Better Life Index, 86 percent of adults aged 25-64 in Switzerland have earned the equivalent of a high school degree, which is higher than the global OECD average of 74 percent, and the Swiss also have higher average test scores in literacy, math and science.

“Not all rich countries have what has been rated by business leaders as very high-quality education,” Zahidi explains. “If you look at Switzerland, the quality of management schools is number-one in the world, the quality of math and science education is number-five in the world, and the quality of primary schools is also number-one. For Internet access in schools, they’re number seven in the world.”

They care about talent and innovation.

Switzerland comes in first in the world for innovation, on-the-job staff training, attracting talent from elsewhere, and for government-provided training. The Swiss are number two for pay being relating to productivity, and number-three for retaining their own talent, according to the Index.

“They’ve created the right environment for people to start their own businesses,” says Zahidi. “And for their intellectual and physical property to be protected.”

Case in point: 99 percent of the Swiss economy is comprised of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), which also represent 75 percent of the workforce.

They’ve created an environment where people can thrive.

In addition to investing in their human capital, the Swiss have created a system that allows people and companies to leverage that capital. This includes ease of transportation and Internet connectivity.

The Swiss Institute for Management Development explains the Swiss have followed the “golden rules of competitiveness.” As Stéphane Garelli of the Institute told The New York Times in May, these rules are: “Manufacture, diversify, export, invest in infrastructure, educate, support small and medium enterprises, enforce fiscal discipline, and above all maintain social cohesion.”

The World Economic Forum’s goal is to bring the lessons of what the Swiss do well to other nations to promote better investment in human capital globally.

“Each country’s story is somewhat unique and there are learnings to be had across various countries,” says Zahidi. “For us, the next step is going to be, can we try to have cross-country learning? Are there best practices in certain countries that can be transferred to others?”


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