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Keep Calm and Carry On

Several years ago, I was working on a complex $1 million proposal to a large national grant maker. As the due date approached, I was astonished to see that my gas mileage had dropped by more than 15%. Since my dashboard displays real-time and cumulative gas mileage, the evidence was literally staring me in the face. It didn't take long to connect the dots. The stress I was feeling about the proposal was causing me to drive faster than usual! 

Everyone knows that stress has many negative consequences, with most of them more serious and yet not as easily measured as gas mileage. It got me to thinking: is there any aspect of life not negatively impacted by stress? What are the total damages? Some sources (example: estimate the cost of workplace stress to employers at $300 billion each year in healthcare and absenteeism costs. That's just one small piece of the total cost. The cost in lost productivity, creativity, and human suffering is incalculable.
Your stress or calm ripples outward to the people around you. The grant professional who can remain calm under pressure helps create a better workplace for everyone. A stressed-out grant professional may soon have all their colleagues wringing their hands. This is why I recommend making “decrease stress and increase calm” a priority for every grant professional. Decreasing stress and increasing calm will benefit yourself, your organization, your family and the wider collective good all at the same time!
According to Dr. Amit Sood, a Mayo Clinic College of Medicine stress and resiliency specialist, the key to reducing stress and its toll on your life is to understand how your brain and mind actually work. In his book, The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living (2013), he makes a startling statement, “Your brain and mind work very hard to keep you stressed” (p. xii). 
What?? I thought my mind and brain were my allies. Turns out this isn't always true.
He goes on, “Understanding and working with the brain's and the mind's imperfections isn't a luxury; it is an absolute necessity if we hope to survive and thrive as a species” (p. xiii). Wow.
While there are no magic wands, there is much we can do to combat stress and increase calm. If you already know some good resources, go with what you know works for you. If you don't know where to start, read The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living (282 pages) and/or The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness (237 pages), both by Dr. Sood.  
Based on his work with tens of thousands of patients, Dr. Sood describes evidence-based practices for decreasing stress and developing happiness and resilience. The techniques are simple, free, quick, and most important, effective. I was pleasantly surprised when I tried them – they really work to flip my mind and brain from what he calls “wandering mode” to “focused mode.” You do not need a medical degree to understand his books or implement his techniques. See this Mayo Clinic infographic,, for an introduction to concepts in the books.
It's never too soon or too late to make the effort to decrease your stress and increase your calm. To paraphrase a great sage, everything—health, happiness, workplace productivity, relationships, even your gas mileage–in the future will improve if you make this effort now.
What practices or techniques do you use to decrease stress and increase calm?
Sood, A. (2013) The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living. Boston, MA: Da Capo        Press.
Sood, A. (2015) The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness A 4-Step Plan for Resilient      Living. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press.
After 20 years in the grants biz, Diane Calabria recently started her own consulting company, Focus Grant Solutions, LLC.



By: Jan Castillo
On: 07/25/2018 11:17:07
For me: plan, plan, plan and then work the plan. While there may be bumps along the way, having a documented proposal process and timeline keep me calm even when deadlines are looming. Can't wait to order Dr. Sood's books!
By: Jayne Czajkowski
On: 07/25/2018 11:49:50
Diane, this is so helpful and timely. I hope to read one or more of the books authored by Dr. Sood, but in the meantime I already feel calmer just knowing stress and focus can be controlled rather than controlling. Thanks so much! Jayne

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