Pressed to Death

Three hundred and twenty years ago, Giles Corey was accused of being a wizard, or warlock, during the infamous Salem Witch Trials. Among the accusations were that he had been seen serving sacrament at a gathering of witches and his “spectre” had been witnessed harassing supposedly innocent citizens. Corey refused to admit guilt or proclaim innocence, an act that was required in order for him to stand trial.

In order to force a plea from him, Corey was forced to undergo “pressing.” He was stripped naked and staked to the ground with a large sheet of wood over his torso. Large boulders, some so heavy it took six men to move, were then placed on the board. Over the course of two days, more and more boulders were added, crushing his chest. Steadfastly refusing to answer the court’s accusations, Corey died from the pressing.

Ever feel like you are being pressed to death?

Everyone feels stressed or even somewhat overwhelmed from time to time. But I’m talking about the kind of pressure that weighs down on you so heavily that you can’t move. You can’t think straight. You find yourself immobilized, unable to take action because your mind keeps worrying about the various issues on your plate.

Left unchecked, this kind of pressure can impact your job, your family, your relationships with friends, and even your health.

I don’t claim to be an expert in stress-management, but I’d like to share some of the strategies I use to help relieve the pressure when I feel the weight of the world pressing down on me.

1. I write it out. I’m a list person. I need to see just how big the mountain is before I can tackle it. So I try to keep a master list of projects updated at all times. It’s nothing fancy, just a legal pad where I write down each project and the major steps that need to take place in order to get it completed. Writing things down helps me to organize the chaos in my head that leads to stress and worry.

2. I eliminate it. Sometimes the best answer to relieving stress is to remove the root cause, literally. I can’t tell you how many pet projects I’ve had languishing on my list, causing me angst every time I see how much I haven’t worked on them. Each time I’ve made the decision to cross one off as “not worthy of my stress right now” have been liberating. Some things just aren’t worth the price tag.

3. I delegate it. Sometimes it can be hard to let go of certain projects. For my own sanity, though, I’ve learned to hand off various tasks to other equally or more capable people. This involves a degree of trust and the ability to live with results that may not be quite like you’d prefer, but the sense of relief I gain from getting certain things off of my plate is usually worth it.

4. I build some momentum. Now I’m down to those things that are both worth pursuing and require my personal attention. Some of these are big projects with many steps. It can be intimidating to see just how long that list still is. To help me get started on the things that really matter, I cheat a little. I add a few smaller items to my to-do list – things I’ve already accomplished – and then cross them off. This visual sense of accomplishment often helps give me the mental boost I need to tackle a few of the others.

Unlike Giles Corey, you and I have a choice when it comes to stress. When it feels like a ton of rocks are piled on your chest, you can choose to remove a few. Obviously, my tips apply to work-related stress. There are other, more serious, types of pressure out there and many more ways to alleviate or cope.

Got a great stress-reduction technique? Shoot me an email. I’d love to hear it.

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